Imagine spending the rest of your life being judged for a bad decision you made on a random day. Imagine facing consequences and repercussions that affect your income, family, relationships, legal status, shelter and many other of life’s necessities based on your worst day. Can you fathom spending the rest of your life under the weight of extreme consequences, fees, paperwork and watchful eyes because you happened to have the unfortunate circumstance of being caught for a crime many others have committed undetected? This reality is shared by many, if not most of the restored citizens in our communities - both juveniles and adults with firsthand knowledge of the incarceration system.
It is so easy for those of us who have never experienced incarceration or been justice-involved to have biases, thoughts, opinions and extreme value judgments against fellow community members less fortunate than us as it relates to the court and prison system.
How much more passionate would your advocacy be for restored citizens if it was your parent who served time? ...Your child who served time? ...Your sibling or best friend who served time? How adamant would you be for desiring and/or demanding your story and voice to be heard if it was YOU who was going to spend the rest of your life stigmatized as a documented felon?
Communities are described as groups of people living in the same place and having particular characteristics in common. Are we embodying “community” in Central Ohio? I would argue that a common characteristic among all community members is the desire for the foundational level of Maslow‘s hierarchy of needs - food, clothing, shelter and safety. Let us not forget that the basic principle of community calls for us to remember those who share the same spaces with us. Many of these community members are those who have been affected and impacted by the justice system and are relegated to live on the fringes of the “good life” we take for granted.
Call to Action:
Are we humble enough to put our pride down and to step back into fellowship with people who are just like us and who desire to share the common pursuit of interests, dreams and goals? Instead of judging people for the rest of their lives on their worst day, what would our community look like if we poured into people and empowered them to believe that through collaboration, their best days are ahead of them?