Quotes from an article "Rule of Law" in the 8/3/1994 edition of the WSJ, written by Charles Colson, himself an ex-con. The WSJ distributed a survey nationwide to all inmates asking them "What could have stopped you from breaking the law?" These answers from the inmates back then are no more surprising today then they were 15 years ago:
Watching TV and seeing people commit crimes - the way it is done, the way it is glamorized on TV - made me think of doing it myself. Childhoods spent in not listening no one. Bored with school. Drug and alcohol addition. Hitting homes with no crime watch district. Bad family life where indifference or terror both reigned. Sexual abuse disregarded. Imitating their peers who were already off in a life of crime suggesting the wrong role models especially within their home.
These are a few of the reasons why they got in trouble with the law. Old news with maybe a few new reasons like widespread cheating, not knowing who to trust and the increase in the use of drugs and growth of more gangs and more members. The public school system that bored them 15 years ago hasn't changed that much. The kids need to be "sold" to understand why school learning is so important to their lives. And there has to be a curricula that holds their interest.
Whoops, I hit enter by mistake and I published this blog before completion. I will complete tomorrow.
In today's criminal climate the average person wants criminals locked without much concern about what happens to them inside. But 97% of those who go in eventually come out. What kind of people will they be then? When they come out they are simply more schooled in more sophisticated crime.
If we want them to be schooled in something more productive, it's imperative we provide them educational and vocational programs. Nationally, the rate of inmates who are rearrested after release is 60% to 70%. But among inmates who receive two years of education, the rate drops to a mere 10%.
Colson believes that one solution to our crime problem is a spiritual one. Across the country, his group called Prison Fellowship - Life Plan volunteers are involved in all aspects of working with inmates, their families and victims of crime. Upon release, Life Plan matches them with a volunteer who works with them for at least six months, which is the period a released person is most like to return to a live of crime.
Colson says that in and out of prison programs for their rehabilitation must be offered. It does not mean coddling them but challenging them to change from the inside, to accept responsibilities.
So 15 years later, everything in this article by Colson remains true. We mainly lock people up with the major concern that they don't escape, kill one another or cause an discipline problems. All well and good. But what happens when they are released, if married, probably divorced, no job to return to and no education while incarcerated? Yes, some en lighted communities with jails and prisons offer learning of vocational skills and educational opportunities. Most do not.
There is a feeling by the average person that why should we train and educate them at taxpayer expense? Good question and easily answered. Is it cheaper to hire more officers, build and incarcerate people who could become productive in a free society? The answer is clear. It is much more expensive to society to hire all security types, build prisons and jails, staff and maintain them, hunt down and arrest, and take care of prisoners than it is to prepare them for the possibility of a live without crime in the rest of their lives.
Don't expect the police chief, sheriff, state police or other security types to rehabilitate and prepare them for a crime-free life possibility. We have hired security and staff to keep the community free of crime. Hunt down and arrest and put them away. It is up to the community. Here in Peoria County we have an opportunity to take the now Peoria County owned 43 acre abandoned Hanna City Correctional Center and turn it into an educational and vocational center for those inmates who will soon be returned to another chance of making it in the world as it exists today.
More on Hanna City opportunities later. Click on Prison Fellowship - Life Plan to learn more what this tremendous group is doing to rehabilitate those that many would write off as lost.
As an aside I did hire ex-cons in my business. One of them had committed a murder in a fight at the age of 17. Last I heard he was doing well, had married one of my better ex-employees, had a family and was involved in technology in the Chicago area.