Sunday, April 24, 2011


Out of sight, out of mind

Pity the poor fellow (or girl) who has served time in prison and now wants to rebuild his life.  He (she) has repented the crime, has served the sentence, and now wants to join society and become simply another honest worker.  As soon as he's out of prison he has difficulty finding a job - no one wants to hire a felon - and a place to live - no one wants to have a felon as a neighbor.
To illustrate the problem I present a portion of a newsletter I recently came across:
More Assaults Against Our RA Property Rights

Group Homes

Councilman Greig Smith has written an ordinance to regulate the many group homes that are appearing in residential neighborhoods across the city. Although any ordinance must address all types of these businesses, it is the unregulated sober living homes and private “group homes” whose tenants are often convicts and/or transients that are causing problems for us. The operators of these homes use our tax dollars (alcoholics are considered disabled by the feds) to charge rent and cram up to 30 people into a 3 or 4 bedroom home. Do the math to see how much money they are making at our expense. Complaints range from increased crime to the residents doing drug deals or having sex in cars or in the yards of these properties. Obviously, the operators’ prime concern is more about making a lot of money than it is about being good neighbors.
This article illustrates part of a general problem we have in America.  The problem is that we have never achieved a public consensus on the treatment, education, and rehabilitation of criminals.  Our public attitude is to send the convicted criminal to a prison and forget about him.  We don't think about what this person is going to do after his sentence is finished.  Our prisons should be as much about education and rehabilitation as about punishment.  Unfortunately all we think about is punishment and public safety.  We seem to believe that there is a type of individual who is prone to commit crimes and that criminals are such individuals.  We don't accept the idea that any one of us may or will under the right circumstances commit crimes.  Would I steal food from a grocery store to feed myself and my family if I had no money?  Yes, I would.  If I were an addict and had no money and needed a fix, would I steal or rob to get the money?  Probably.  I doubt that I have the will power to overcome a serious addiction.  Do I belong in prison?  I don't think so.

If we had in place practices and policies for rehabilitating and educating convicts while in prison and if we had good judgment about which convicts to release and which ones to keep a while longer, persons like the writer of the newsletter article would be less worried about temporary homes for released convicts.  If also we had a better system of providing these homes and determining who stays in them there would not be the problem of addicts taking up residence in such places.

How do we get there from here?  We can't depend on a democratic and representative government to do it for us.  What we need is a group of dedicated individuals to do the hard work of creating and operating such temporary residences, including raising the money to get the first residence started.  There would eventually have to be an organization to operate all the residences in the State.  I don't know whether it should be operated by the State or by a non-profit non-governmental operation (NGO).

I invite your comments.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?