Post by Steve Nelson
One of our staff recently told me about an encounter he had at a volunteer recruitment event in a local shopping mall. He was staffing one of the many tables set up by organizations hoping to entice shoppers into learning more about their volunteer opportunities when a man came up and asked about Amicus. Upon hearing that we work with Minnesotans with a criminal record, often helping them successfully reenter society after a prison sentence, the man shook his head and said “Oh now, I can’t get involved with you. You see, I’m ‘anti-crime!’
We both laughed about that one. In reality, I can’t think of an action that particular gentleman could have taken which would have been more “anti-crime” than volunteering for Amicus or getting involved with one of the other local organizations focused on reentry.
Conversely, there’s nothing out there more “pro-crime” than denying employment or housing opportunities, or even positive friendship to those who are leaving prison after serving their time. People involved with reentry know that not everyone we work with is going to make it on the outside. Sometimes they go back into prison because they’re not ready to make the life changes they need to make. Just as often though, it’s because they encounter so many closed doors, so many hopes unfulfilled, that, even if it’s just for a moment, they give up. It might be failing to call in to the Parole Officer or stopping by a bar for a drink instead of checking employment listings that day. It’s nothing flashy, but more than enough to send you back to prison if you have a record. Occasionally though, giving up can also take a more violent or desperate form.
Watching the “giving up” scenario play out way too many times is why I believe the most “anti-crime” stance on the planet is taking personal responsibility to ensure that the bridge to restoration isn’t closed to those with criminal records due to neglect and disrepair. Unlike those we see talking tough on tv news, protecting and enhancing that bridge is how we can be truly tough on crime.
We can support policies which give those with criminal records a fair shot at a job interview or the opportunity to get a lease on an apartment or house where they can find peace and recharge. It doesn’t have to be easy, just fair – a process that looks at the individual, not just the crime. We can also ensure that judges have the discretion to see that some of the juveniles in their courtroom who have made a mistake don’t always have a public record following them into adulthood.
You can help do all that and more at Second Chance Day on the Hill on Jan. 31. There’s a rally of all who believe in second chances in the rotunda at 10 a.m. and it’s followed by opportunities to visit your legislators, strengthening their resolve to be fair to ALL their constituents, even the one in four of them who has a criminal record. For more information and to learn about bus transportation to the event, check out the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition website – www.mnsecondchancecoalition.org.
See you there!