Restored: Body, Mind and Soul
Delinquent. Ex-con. Convicted felon. Formerly incarcerated. These are the terms we’ve historically used to refer to someone who has been involved with the justice system. But where is the humanity in any of these terms? Each of the labels has stereotypes and stigmas dripping off them. It’s time for the negative narrative to change. In the last few years, a new term has begun being used to refer to folks who have formerly served time in correction facilities: restored citizens. The idea behind this new term is that of starting over and re-entering the community still worthy and still a citizen. One of my favorite definitions for restored is to be made new and better than before. We believe it’s possible – with proper supports, resources, services and advocacy – for restored citizens to rejoin the community as positive, valuable contributing members. But how does one transform their mind from being “property of the state” to being a whole, individual person? What are we willing to do as a community to support our restored citizens in being made whole again?
“Property of the state”. The mere language of referring to someone as “property” conjures up images of slavery. Not unlike the days of slavery, our speaker discussed the dehumanizing experience of being reduced to a number. …Of being viewed in the eyes of prison staff as reprehensible. …Of being locked up, isolated and subjected to a quality of life so desperate that some become better “criminals” in prison. One attendee spoke of the, “…Soft bigotry of low expectations.” Yet, the idea of being “restored” makes me think of freedom – a new kind of freedom. Many of us have conducted ourselves in ways that were less-than-stellar. However, a lesser number of folks get caught and are required to right their wrongs through incarceration. Once time is served, what does it mean to re-enter society? What have you lost? What do you gain? How do you work through the hurt of what you experienced on the inside of prison once you’re on the outside? And how much longer after your body is free will it take for your mind to be free as well?