Second Chances In Life….

I grew up in poverty and without a mother.  My father was typical of his generation in that he was a pretty stoic guy who even though he had love in his heart he just didn’t hand it out well. As a result I had some rather serious love issues growing up.  My younger brother and I were pretty much on our own at least emotionally through our early years. I was shy and very introverted for many of those years. I started losing my hearing during high school and then at the age of forty I went completely deaf.  So I have known some adversity in my life but I generally think it has been a blessed life.

I take to heart the quote “there but for the grace of God go I”.  I know I had it kind of rough but that was nothing compared to many others. I know one guy whose father got him and his brother hooked on meth before they were even teenagers. I know of another that grew up with an alcoholic father and a mother who was constantly being abused.  I know by comparisons I had it pretty good growing up. I realize that if a few things had changed in my life I could possibly have been one of those who spent time in our prison system.

Being that I volunteer a couple of days a week in a local soup kitchen and men’s homeless shelter I am probably exposed to more ex-offenders than most. We know that the current national uP&P2n-employment rate is around 7.5% but what most people don’t know is that the un-employment rate among ex-offenders in the first year after release is 75%!  Why are there no second chances for these guys? Given the almost impossible odds of gaining employment, especially anything other than minimum wage, is it really not hard to understand why 40% of felons are reincarcerated within three years of release. If only we gave some of these guys a second chance at life.

I recently came across a cable channel program called Pit Bulls and Parolees. It is about Tia Torres who runs a pit bull rescue shelter in New Orleans. She rightfully states that Pit Bulls are the most misunderstood species of dogs on the planet. Most people think they are a vicious and are only good for junkyard dogs. In reality she shows us they are some of the most friendly dogs around. Yes, some of them have been bred and trained for dog fights, especially in the south, but most are just loving  and very loyal pets.

P&P 1Tia Torres show us that Pit Bulls in her shelter and the parolees she hires to maintain it have a very common thread. Most parolees are thought to be vicious and unsociable. She show us, and I have also personally found, that not be reality. Most ended up in prison because of stupid mistakes that any of us might have made if we were in similar circumstances.  Most of these guys just need a second chance in life. The lucky few who find that second chance are those that can escape the system and go on to happy and fruitful lives.  If only more of us were like Tia and willing to give some a second chance our prisons would not be eating up such a large amount of our resources and our country might not have the largest percentage of citizens under lock and key.

2 comments

  1. I work with felons as a mentor while they are in prison and upon their release. The barriers society throws in their path are unbelievable: few will hire them and few with rent them an apartment. In many states, ex-cons do not receive food stamps or any public assistance. They are lucky to get Medicaid-type medical coverage.

    In Arizona we give them $50 and a bus ticket. They are expected to find a place to live, buy food, buy clothing (they have just the clothes on their back when released), get a job within a day or two, use public transportation, and become law abiding citizens.

    The idea of someone “doing their time” and being given a second chance is a myth. “Once a criminal always a criminal” is much closer to our attitude.

    What a horrible waste of human potential and a guarantee that the majority will fail and “prove they were bad.”

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    • Thanks for your re-inforcing words Bob. Yeah, second chances don’t seem to be a reality in our world. How unChristian like that is for a supposedly “Christian nation”!

      All we can do is to try to bring these problems into focus for others and to do what we can on an individual basis. So, many of these guys really try to turn their lives around but with so much against them it sadly seems almost impossible to me.

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