- Politics and Social Issues»
- Social Issues
Land of Eternal Consequences: The Invisible Bars of Life After Prison
Crime and Punishment
Everyone views the concept of punishment differently. There are people who believe that a heavy hand coupled with a cold heart is the best way to end crime in our country; others believe that a few ounces of prevention, caring and rehabilitation are the way to create a better society in which punishment becomes unnecessary. Unfortunately, we now live in a society that greatly values punishment while ignoring the consequences of meting out those unfair, impractical and sometimes inhumane punishments, even after people have done their time. Many of these punishments seem designed to force people back into prison; indeed, many people, weary from drug addiction, bad choices, bad histories, mental illness and the psychological and emotional side-effects of incarceration itself, are unable to cope with the enormous pressures they face “on the outside.”
Before they went to prison, most of these people were not living ideal lives. Yes, there were bad choices being made. In fact, the vast majority of people in America’s prisons today are there as a result of bad choices. Stealing cars is a bad choice. Starting fights and breaking into people’s houses are bad choices. One may come from a bad background with little hope to forge a better life, but most of the time, one is given choices and it is up to them to decide what path they will take.
Serial killers, serial rapists, and pedophiles that will never be rehabilitated - those that are "wired" differently - must be considered separately. Although, judging from the punishments alone (without inclusion of the death penalty), one would think that all offenders are serial killers and serial rapists and pedophiles. The mentally ill or mentally disabled that wind up in prison are usually incapable of making any rational choices, and not subject to “normal” punishment. The death penalty cannot be taken out of the realm of possibility for some; mental hospitals, halfway houses or group homes should be opened or reopened to deal with the crushing number of people in our prison system whose biggest crime is having an uncontrollable mental illness that makes them act inappropriately and/or harm others. But most people who end up in prison are not the Unabomber or Son of Sam or Charles Manson or Jeffrey Dahmer. Most people are relatively normal. And what is most troubling about our post-incarceration punishment is that we are turning these “normal” people into the careless, violent, hopeless, selfish individuals we are most afraid of by sabotaging their reentry into society and dashing their hopes to regain a normal life, and, in many cases, giving them no option but to return to prison.
Bad seed or troubled kid crying for help?
Rustin has been in trouble his whole life. His cousin remembers coming to school every day and seeing him in the principal’s office. Yup, she thought, He did something to get in trouble again. With his background, it wasn’t surprising. He never met his dad. They were unbelievably poor. He cried for help for years, and no one listened. At first, it was small stuff like him bullying other kids and daily trips to the principal’s office (he told me he didn't have any friends in elementary school because he "always beat everybody up"), but Rustin’s demons pushed him in all the wrong directions. However, it wasn’t until 1994, when he was 15, that all that trouble started to stick. He wasn’t a kid anymore, and they needed to teach him a lesson or he was going to wind up in real trouble. Mostly, Rustin did a lot of community service as punishment. He paid a lot of fines. Shoplifting. Fighting. Menacing. Theft. He kept pushing the boundaries, and they kept letting him cross the line.
But he just wasn’t getting it.
In addition to the fighting, harassing, menacing, etc., Rustin was busy racking up traffic violations. A lot of traffic violations. So the judge required him to submit an SR22 form:
"To get your driver's license back after having certain suspensions or revocations, or to prevent your license from being suspended, you may be required to file an SR-22. This is a rider to an insurance policy in which the insurance company guarantees you will keep insurance in effect for a certain period of time … The form itself is not an insurance policy. It is a guarantee by the insurance company that you will keep insurance in effect for a certain period of time. If you don't keep the SR22 current, the insurance company will notify the Motor Vehicle Division that the SR22 is no longer in effect, but is still required. Your driver's license will be suspended for that reason alone … If you decide to change insurance companies, you must get a new SR22 filed before the old one goes out of effect." (SR22)
Rustin was initially required to file this form in 1998, a privilege he very much earned. Reckless driving, driving without insurance, driving without registration, driving without a license, and speeding are just some of the charges he incurred as a young adult. This isn’t unusual; it's common knowledge that young drivers, especially young male drivers, can be reckless and take more risks than older male drivers in their mid-30s.
The SR22, theoretically, is a reasonable punishment to make someone a more responsible driver. Unfortunately, what was meant to make a 20 year old more responsible has turned into a minor nightmare.
Rustin is now 37 years old. But he is still required to maintain an active insurance policy for a period of three years. In the years since the judge first ordered him to file it, he has not been able to fulfill the requirement. The SR22 requires that he hold insurance whether or not he drives a car. Even if it was physically impossible for him to use a motor vehicle (e.g., incarceration or injury), and therefore did not need insurance, the clock reset every time he let his insurance policy lapse. It can be reset an unlimited number of times; every time one fails to hold an insurance policy, even if you let it lapse for one day, the clock can be reset. Again, this is regardless of whether or not you are operating or are even able to operate a motor vehicle. Again, Rustin was initially required to file this form in 1998. But because of his incarcerations and subsequent paroles - at which time he was not able or allowed to drive or even own a car - the clock was reset. What this means for Rustin is that the requirement of submitting this form only goes away in 2015, and that is only if he does not allow his insurance to expire for any reason!
Again, this means he will have been punished for those traffic offenses for a whopping 17 years! There are murderers that receive less prison time.
But so troubled a youth had more to offer, and opportunity presented itself in female form.
Most crimes don't deserve life sentences
His next conviction stemmed from what most would consider a poor choice, not an abnormality or “evil.” When he was 19, Rustin had consensual sex with a 14-year-old girl. It is important to note that if they had started their sexual relationship just two weeks earlier, when Rustin was 18, he would not have been prosecuted at all. The girl’s parents brought charges against Rustin; at first, they tried to have him charged with forceful sexual conduct, for which there was no factual basis. Additionally, it was known to her parents that she and Rustin were dating; they approved of that relationship as long as there was no sexual conduct. Rustin’s grandmother said that the girl testified, under oath, that she and Rustin had consensual sex several times. This may have been poor impulse control on Rustin’s part, but it certainly would not be considered “pedophilia” or “abnormal.” Rustin was, after all, still a teenager himself and this girl was well into adolescence.
This case was greatly exacerbated by the understandable anger of the girl’s parents. She was quite young at the time and it would be understandably difficult to accept that one's young daughter was already sexually active. But does that give one the right to cry RAPE! (especially when the girl herself said she and Rustin had consensual sex several times and he had never forced this sex)? During the trial, it came to light that Rustin was not her only sexual partner and she did not lose her virginity to him, which was embarrassing for both her and her parents. This information must have come as quite a shock to the girl’s parents: A church pastor and his wife. However, their anger did not justify their actions. This initial accusation paved the road that he is now stuck on, and will travel the rest of his life unless the law is changed.
Because it was such a serious charge, there were discussions about a plea deal early on. Factually, Rustin had sex with her; he was considered an adult and she was considered a child, in the eyes of the law. Rustin was afraid to go to prison, so was looking for as little jail time as possible. Unfortunately, the prosecutor was more than willing to make a deal.
It begs the question: Is it moral/ethical to force people to accept a plea deal out of fear of jail/prison that will burden them with a label that will punish them for the rest of their lives? To be fair to the prosecutor, the current sex offender registration law, the Lifetime Sex Offender Supervision program (Colorado Revised Statue 16-22-110 (1998)) did not exist when Rustin was tried in 1997. Had Rustin known the future punishment for his crime, he probably would not have accepted the plea deal for the more serious charge.
Also, is it fair to offer a deal to someone if it is known they did not commit such a crime? Rustin did not sexually assault a child (a person that has not reached adolescence), although that is what his record states. Is it fair to follow the letter of the law, and not the spirit? In sex offense cases, as in many drug offense cases, the court is required to follow the letter of the law, regardless of its practicality or fairness. Again, the prosecutor may have known about the serious consequences he would impose on Rustin if he accepted the deal, but it is unlikely. Had the judge employed the spirit of the law and considered the very small span of time – two weeks – in which Rustin’s actions were either not a crime (when he was 18) or were a serious crime (when he was 19), and had the judge been able to be lenient where leniency was reasonable, he could have made a more practical and fair decision regarding Rustin’s punishment.
So now, Rustin must go to the Colorado Springs Police Department and register as a Sex Offender every three months, for the rest of his life. He must note this on formal job applications. He is not allowed to work at schools, even as a janitor during that time when children are not in the school. Not even in schools or institutions at which the students are all over the age of 18. All of this is prohibited, even though he was determined to be normal and highly unlikely to sexually re-offend.
Before Rustin went to prison a second time, on July 20, 2007, L. Dennis Kleinsasser, Ph.D., performed a psychosexual evaluation as part of a larger “Adult Pre-Sentence Investigation Report.” This report was initiated before his second trial, in 2007 - for buying and selling stolen auto parts - by Rustin’s attorney, Lari Trogani. Dr. Kleinsasser conducted several tests to determine whether he was “at risk of sexually reoffending.” (2 Kleinsasser) This test was “not a full psychological assessment, but is a specially designed sex offense specific [sic] assessment to determine treatment amenability [and] risk for sexual re-offense.” (1 Kleinsasser) This evaluation was performed three years after his first incarceration, where he served his time for the sex offense concurrently with the 4th degree felony theft charge.
In his report, Kleinsasser asks the reader to “[k]eep in mind that normal heterosexual adult males show objective sexual interest in both adolescent and adult females.” (11) Kleinsasser also quotes the first doctor that examined Rustin in 1998, Dr. Pam Hiner: “This Abel screen was consistent with the current Abel screen in finding him attracted to adult and adolescent females …” (11) In other words, although this behavior is considered illegal, it is not considered, psychologically, to be abnormal. Additionally, Kleinsasser determined that Rustin was low-risk and low danger. Kleinsasser found that Rustin did not have inappropriate attractions to nor fantasies about very young girls or boys and, when tested for his sexual preferences preferred adult females and was “disgusted with all other presentations,” (10) which we can assume includes, but is not limited to, pedophilia, homosexuality and sexual violence.
With so many dangerous sex offenders out on the streets, why does the criminal justice system spend so much time on offenders like Rustin? It can be argued that punishing people who have committed similar or lesser offenses, such as public urination, devalues the entire Sex Offender Registry system. If you know one person who is not deserving of the sex offender title, then who is to say all people shamed on the web sites are equally undeserving of such humiliation?
Rustin’s name, address, and identifying markings are listed on several sex offender sites. These sites use mug shots that make everybody look like a dangerous criminal. And regardless of the disclaimers, people use these sites to exact revenge on people on which they have very little information and to which they have no personal ties.
Rustin used to live with his mom; then her elderly neighbor died. The neighbor's son took possession of the house, and he happened to be the local Fire Chief. The new local Fire Chief that didn’t previously know or care that a sex offender was living across the street from his parents’ house, but now that he was moving in with his family and young children, it was suddenly a big deal. Not bothering to gather any information about Rustin’s case, he went and raised hell to the Police Chief, who promptly went to Rustin's mother's house (she had to leave work to meet them there), along with two detectives. Then they called his mother’s landlady (they got her phone number from court documents) and informed her that there was a sex offender living in her house. The landlady informed Rustin’s mother that if he did not move out that day, she would evict everyone.
This punishment seems ridiculously harsh. He committed this crime a long time ago and had not sexually reoffended since. Realistically, the landlady could have specified that she did not want a convicted felon living in her home; but she had no issue, per se, with him being a convicted felon. Her issue was specifically with him being a sex offender. The police that came to the house had previously been sympathetic to Rustin’s cause, even recommending that he appeal his status, before the Fire Chief took possession of the house. Of course they knew the details of the case and knew he was non-violent and normal. And yet, the detective he had spoken with personally each time he registered at the police station betrayed him the most. She threatened him and viciously insulted his grandmother, who was there only to deliver Rustin to the house because his car broke down. This detective initiated the call to the landlord, infringing on his basic human right of a place to live.
Forcing sex offenders to be homeless is bad for communities
In the span of an hour, Rustin was homeless, with no other immediate housing options. His grandmother could not take him into her home because she had renters with small children in the apartment attached to her home. The Justice Center of The Council of State Governments (Justice Center) states that:
"Securing housing is one of the most immediate challenges individuals leaving prison face upon their release. Research has shown that the types of living arrangements and neighborhoods to which exiting prisoners return are often related to the likelihood that they will recidivate and return to prison. While many of the formerly incarcerated stay with family members – at least early on, others are confronted by limited housing options. This is especially true for those with mental health or substance abuse problems. Obtaining housing is complicated by a host of factors, including the scarcity of affordable and available housing, legal barriers and regulations, landlords’ prejudices against formerly incarcerated individuals, and strict eligibility requirements for federally subsidized housing." (Housing)
The Justice Center also emphasizes how important it is for people who have been incarcerated to have a smooth transition back into “normal” life, to prevent them from returning to prison:
"The challenges associated with reentry after incarceration are intensified for individuals who have been convicted of sex offenses. Research reveals that upon return to the community, sex offenders are more likely to be rearrested for a non-sex crime than a new sex crime, and that supervision violation rates are high. The field struggles with developing effective comprehensive reentry strategies that respond to the myriad general and specialized needs of sex offenders." (D’Amora)
They stress three benefits, which they believe are most important for sex offenders, because of the enormous stigma attached to that label:
- Public Safety: Reducing recidivism results in fewer victims of crime and decreases reincarceration, and improves public safety;
- Stronger Communities and Families: Reentry can promote family reunification, pro-social relationships, improved economic outcomes, and healthier communities;
- Smarter Use of Taxpayer Dollars: Reincarceration is costly and diverts public resources away from other public priorities, such as education and social supports. (6 Overview)
The Justice Center also states that “Sex Offenders are Not All The Same,” (22 Overview) and that “Enhanced Assessment Strategies [need to acknowledge] that ‘one size fits all’ is not effective [and needs to] shift toward assessment-driven strategies.” (35 Overview) For Rustin, that would mean that the court could determine whether supervision should continue based on his psychosexual evaluations and his likelihood to reoffend, rather than being mandatorily sentenced. Although it should be noted that the authors point out in the Overview that Sex Offenders have a higher overall rate of recidivism (36%) for crime in general. (27 Overview) It could be theorized that because of mandatory sentencing, as with drug offenses, convicted sex offenders tend to become hopeless and develop a sense of pervasive fatalism that causes them to take extraordinary risks out of a sense of feeling that they will eventually be punished for something regardless. Rustin, unfortunately, fell into that category.
Rustin states that one of the most frustrating aspects of his parole was mandatory sex offender treatment. As noted, the examining psychologist determined Rustin was unlikely to sexually reoffend and that his sexual preferences were not abnormal. However, because of the sex offense and because he was on parole, Rustin was forced to attend classes in which many dangerous, violent and mentally ill sexual predators or those with serious sexual abnormalities were present. He said it made him physically sick to hear people flippantly speak of the terrible crimes they committed, sometimes against their own children or grandchildren. Rustin was nearly kicked out of a class when he confronted another “student,” telling him that if he ever did those things to his children, he would kill him. Why does the state feel the need to group all sex offenders together, regardless of their offense? It seems unusually punitive, or perhaps lazy, to put people who committed minor sex offenses such as public urination with those who, it could be argued, should be locked up forever. Rustin learned in prison treatment that his actions were wrong, so he was not in a state of denial. Could one reasonably say that someone who streaks across a football field is in the same league or deserves the same punishment as, say, Albert Fish?
The Justice Center notes that 43% of sex offenders will reoffend, but that only 5.3% were rearrested for a sex offense. “Over one third (38%) were returned to prison within three years … [and] 71% [of those] were returned for technical violations.” (emphasis added) (55 Overview) They strive to create programs and policy that will keep non-violent sex offenders out of prison and become productive members of society. The Justice Center notes several “Key Elements of a Sex Offender Reentry Strategy,” the following of which would have greatly assisted Rustin with his reentry:
"1. Collaborate to achieve an “in to out” approach, which would include Promote seamless continuity of care and Establish community supports [which includes:]
- [Managing] sex offenders in prison with an eye toward release;
- Engage offenders to identify, needs for pre- and post-release success
- Develop a comprehensive reentry roadmap and case management plan
- Provide programs and services [for:] Cognitive skills, Substance abuse, Vocational [skills], Educational [skills], Mental health, [and should be] Sex offense-specific
3. Recognize the value of discretionary release decision - making [(not a “one-size-fits-all approach)]
5. Adopt a success-oriented approach to post-release supervision" (39 Overview)
Does the system set them up to fail?
Rustin may have been convicted of a sex offense, but his true gift was stealing cars. Both of his incarcerations were for theft. Initially, in 2000, Rustin was charged with 3rd Degree Theft (F3) ($15,000 or more), which should have earned him far more prison time. When they arrested him, they charged him with stealing over 3,000 cars. This number was exaggerated, but not by much. Rustin admits he stole far more than $15,000 worth of cars and was very lucky to get such a light sentence. He admits that he may have ruined some people’s lives by stealing their cars. (“What if they got fired because they couldn’t get to work because I stole their car?”) In the first theft case, Rustin was allowed to plead to a lesser charge, that of Theft (F4) ($500-$15,000) and receive less prison time. Upon his release, he was, of course, subject to the same punishments all convicted felons must endure.
Most people who do prison time are required to pay restitution. When Rustin was released from prison in 2004, he was to repay the state $53,000. As of today, Rustin still owes the State of Colorado about $150,000, a sum he is sure he will never be able to repay. This restitution would be automatically deducted from his pay, if he could find a job. As many college graduates now know, paying your every day expenses and paying back an enormous debt can be overwhelming, discouraging, and for many people, nearly impossible. And college graduates can hold normal, high-paying jobs. Parolees and convicted felons are not that lucky.
Just getting a job is especially challenging for convicted felons. There is great prejudice against those that have been incarcerated. It can be argued that because of their bad choices, they do not deserve a second or third chance. Some would argue that some people should never get out of prison, even for non-violent offenses. But as a society, if we agree that people who non-violently offend should not have the same prison sentence as a serial killer, then we need to decide when punishment truly ends. Maybe the idea of parole is outdated. Or maybe people should serve longer sentences and be done with it. Maybe the halfway house model should be used more frequently, so that institutionalization occurs less frequently. But if we are going to let people out of prison, we cannot set the stage for them to reoffend simply so that we can turn around and send them back.
Taking into account that many people who commit heinous crimes such as mass murder are never suspected of being capable of such atrocities – and are rarely arrested for more than a DUI or drug offense prior to the massacres they commit - felons should be exempted from reporting their incarceration to some employers. Of course, some jobs would require that people have a clean background (e.g., banks or schools), but jobs such as construction, machining or garbage men should not require such rigorous standards. Although, in today’s job market, it could be argued that because of high demand and few jobs, employers need to have a way to choose the best workers amongst the dozens, if not thousands, of applicants. But if we as a society are serious about their rehabilitation, we need to clean some slates and truly give them a second chance, not just pretend to give them a second chance by letting them out and then burdening them with numerous disadvantages.
Jobs: Even tougher to get with a felony record
There are added stresses to maintaining employment for those who have been incarcerated. Most parolees are required to have full-time employment, but they may not be able to own a car, cell phone OR maintain a bank account. This unfairly marginalizes parolees. Oftentimes, parolees are required to attend court-ordered treatment during the work day, for which they must pay about $40 per class. Weekly attendance is generally required, and even if the parolee was not convicted of any drug offense, they must attend drug and alcohol counseling. So they are working to pay for treatment they may not need – that they greatly resent - that interferes with their work schedule, which gives them yet another disadvantage as an employee.
There are also those who are released from prison who are physically or mentally disabled and unable to work. Many men suffer severe injuries in prison such as traumatic brain injuries, broken bones that are not set, and of course the psychological trauma of being incarcerated. Rustin was ambushed in his cell by five men; they beat him unconscious and he never reported or sought medical assistance for the attack. They are released from prison and are virtually unemployable because of their physical or mental disabilities (and because of their prison record), but have no medical files documenting their injuries nor have access to the resources necessary to put together a file to successfully apply for Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI). They don’t get jobs that offer health insurance (few American workers in general are employed in jobs that give them full insurance benefits), so they are not able to have a doctor assist them in proving their disabilities. So they live in a limbo of pain, confusion and unemployment that sets them up for a return to prison.
People on parole are also strictly prohibited from associating with other people in the same circumstance. This does not mean that you cannot work or live in a group home with someone else with a criminal conviction, which is considered being in contact with other convicted criminals. But it does mean one is not allowed to befriend or “hang out” with those people with whom they would most likely share the common, traumatic experience of having been incarcerated. Research has shown that friendships are formed because of similarities, (356 McCornack) and it goes to reason that parolees would naturally relate to other parolees because of their shared traumatic experience of being in prison, especially early in the parole period. Peeples notes that one may attend court-approved functions together, but they are not allowed to hang out together after the function. Peeples uses the example of going for coffee after treatment or classes; this is not allowed for parolees under current law.
Certainly, further isolating those who are already socially and psychologically vulnerable from those who could most understand them surely must hinder their recovery and re-entry into general society. Further, is it truly necessary to separate those people not convicted of the same offense, or from those not currently under state supervision? The logic behind this must have been that they didn’t want them planning to commit further offenses, but it can be argued that the isolation they experience would, in itself, predispose them to commit further crime without anyone’s assistance.
Does reclassifying necessities as "luxury items" further sabotage prisoners' transition back into society?
Several other punishments meted out by the state benefit neither the parolee nor the state. For example, there are so-called “privileges” that are prohibited to parolees. Some of these “privileges” include: possessing a cell phone, computer or pager; owning or driving a car; entering into a contract such as a lease or buying a car; getting a fishing license; or owning/using a credit card, debit card or even a bank account. (88 Peeples) Can you imagine, living without the “privilege” of a cell phone, computer or car? Prohibiting these items makes it challenging for the parolee to live in our modern, tech-saturated society. It could be argued that none of these are a privilege, but rather, necessities.
It seems excessively punitive to prohibit a parolee from having a bank account, which most employers require you to have for the direct deposit of a paycheck. It also goes to reason that those with limited access to housing or transportation should not carry large amounts of cash on their person.
One could be made under- or unemployable if they have no access to a motor vehicle. In Colorado Springs, there is no bus service on Sundays or late at night. It is likely that a parolee would get a job that would require them to work “off hours,” and not having transportation options on Sundays or at night would severely limit your ability to work.
Because they can’t use a vehicle means they do a great deal of walking or biking, and a great deal of time using public transportation. Prohibiting them from using a cell phone or pager and requiring them to use a home phone (land line) is unfair to the parolee and impractical and inconvenient for the parole officer. Fitting each parolee with a tracking device not only infringes on their human rights, but it would be impossible to track each and every parolee 24 hours per day, seven days per week. That would greatly increase the number of corrections staff, which would require more tax dollars in an already overburdened corrections system.
Additionally, parolees must check in, via telephone, every day, for the entirety of their parole (which can be several years) to find out if they are required to take a drug or alcohol test. They must call in by a certain time every day. Rustin was required to call every day for two years. If they don’t have access to a motor vehicle, the parolee may need to conduct more business on the phone than would someone with the ability to drive all over town to complete tasks such as apply for medical benefits or a job. Not having access to a cell phone could make this requirement impractical and unfair. Punishment cannot be made so that the parolee is set up to fail; it is grossly unfair, impractical, difficult to sustain and the cost of sending parolees with limited cell phone access back to prison simply because they do not have stable access to a phone would prove a huge burden to taxpayers as well.
A better solution is to give all parolees, and all those recently released from prison, a simple, inexpensive cell phone, plus free minutes, on which people can contact them as needed and they can conduct necessary business and contact the people in their support network. Also, it will increase their confidence by giving them added independence and a feeling of inclusion with the larger society, of which a major majority owns and frequently operates cell phones.
Personal computers were long ago considered a luxury item; now it’s nearly impossible to accomplish every day business without one. Most businesses require prospective employees to apply online. Most banking is done online. Businesses often direct customers to their websites, encouraging people to use the site rather than call to speak with an employee. Some companies require their bills be paid exclusively online. And if one has limited access to a car, being able to look up the hours of operation of a business online certainly helps people to plan their travel schedule.
Surprisingly, however, upon release, parolees are immediately eligible to serve on juries, and indeed may be jailed if they fail to respond to the jury summons. They are not allowed to serve on a grand jury, but someone could, theoretically, be required to go straight to the courthouse from prison. Rustin received a jury summons that required him to appear about two weeks after he got out of prison the second time, in 2011. He followed all instructions, but when called to the stand during jury selection he informed those in attendance that he would not convict any person of any crime because the whole system was corrupt.
So we don’t allow them to own a cell phone but they can help to decide the fate of one of their peers? Is it good social policy to summon those recently released from prison to jury duty? Wouldn’t they have a skewed opinion of the legal system? Could they competently decide the fate of their peers? It can be argued that there should be a break in the time between getting out of prison and serving on a jury. The parolee could be feeling a great deal of depression or may be overwhelmed by their new life on the outside; it could be argued further that those suffering from any mental illness should be evaluated before being able to serve on a jury. Convicted felons are also allowed to vote (but not parolees). Again, we give them this tremendous privilege of voting, but we don’t allow them access to a computer so they can send an e-mail to their lady friend?
We must all work together to make the world a better place for everyone, even if it takes a lot of forgiveness and even more work
The United States … we are seeing unprecedented change that, at this moment, the moment you read this, will affect untold generations of humanity. People will talk about this era and be astounded that we survived it. The speed at which information bounces and rebounds from every corner of the globe is making us rethink – sometimes from moment to moment - much of our social structure and our values; sometimes this self-reflection is painful. But we have stagnated far too long with educational models that don’t educate our children, drug programs that don’t rehabilitate our addicts, healthcare systems that bankrupt the sick, a military that injures and kills its best and bravest, a penal system designed to keep people in jail forever and a government that doesn’t listen.
In 2008, our economy nearly collapsed and people have been struggling ever since; but these sacrifices are making us reexamine those things that were rotting our country from the inside out: Greed, Excess, Callousness, Shallowness. Are we a country that chooses to incarcerate the most vulnerable and downtrodden of our society, while letting those that nearly destroyed the lives of millions of people go free? Are we a country that should be proud of having more prisoners than any other country on the whole planet? What is the legacy we are leaving for our children, especially those children that have one or both parents incarcerated, parents who went to prison before they were born and will miss graduations, weddings, births and even possibly deaths? It is our responsibility to make this a better country not only for ourselves, but for those future generations that we will never know. Dostoyevsky said, “You can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners.” What does that say about us? It says we put the interests of for-profit prisons above human life, we value the law more than humanity, that we do not value families, we would rather kill than rehabilitate, that the lives of those representing the state (police) have more value than that of an ordinary citizen, and that we often put ourselves in God’s place when handing out punishment. We need to crash back down to Earth and start treating all people with understanding and humanity, and adopt a policy of providing the best possible life everyone, rather than living in a world of dysfunction that thrives off the cycle of pain and suffering.
Should there be more reintegration programs for newly-released prisoners?
D'Amora, David, M.S., LPC, CFC, and Kurt Bumby, Ph.D. "An Overview of Sex Offender Reentry: Building a Foundation for Professionals." CSG Justice Center. N.p., 23 Apr. 2014. Web. 20 July 2014.
2011, June. An Overview of Sex Offender Reentry: (n.d.): n. Web. 20 July 2014
Kleinsasser, L. Dennis, Ph.D. Psychosexual Evaluation of Rustin Sparks. Rep. Colorado Springs, CO: n.p., 2007. Print.
"Housing." CSG Justice Center. Justice Center / The Council of State Governments, 23 Apr. 2014. Web. 20 July 2014.
McCornack, Steven. Reflect & Relate: An Introduction to Interpersonal Communication. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 20013. Print.
Peeples, Carol, and Christie Donner. Getting On After Getting Out: A Re-Entry Guide for Colorado. Denver, CO: Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, 2007. Print.
"SR22 and Insurance Information." Colorado Department of Revenue. State of Colorado, n.d. Web. 19 July 2014.
© 2015 Carrie Peterson