(ThyBlackMan.com) Freedom – the right and privilege we often take for granted. Freedom – important enough for countries to go to war over and neighbor to take up arms against neighbor. Yet ironically, America has a larger amount of its population incarcerated than any other top nation in the world. Our jails and prisons are largely not rehabilitative, even though they could easily be. And recidivism is high. Jails and prisons are overcrowded, yet our governments, courts and law enforcements still see incarceration as the answer to crime and punishment. While I do not say they are completely wrong, I definitely say there methods are incomplete, unbalanced and sometimes unnecessary
Our country locks up the guilty, the innocent, the poor, the mentally ill and those who cannot afford a strong enough defense lawyer to enable them to go free (both the guilty and the innocent). You can make one crucial mistake or dwell in the wrong place at the wrong time and your entire life can be flipped upside down. Those who “pay their debt to society” are forever branded, even after they leave jail or prison. Felonies are likely to never disappear from a criminal record. Thus the “criminal” will forever after be limited in life. And in a bad economy where people need jobs, employers go for hiring the cream of the crop, not convicted felons. Ironically, a felony can differ by 5 dollars, charges from an overzealous prosecutor or as little as one year in age between intimate companions.
As a former detective and now a family and relationship counselor, mediator and life coach, I have seen innocent people go to jail and guilty people go free. I have also seen the reverse. I have seen prosecutors and defense attorneys flip a coin to see who will win the case. I have seen public defenders sell their clients “down the river“. I have also seen guilty people who should never walk the streets again. But the courts as a whole do not do a good job making these distinctions. And sometime, just sometimes, a felony may not be as bad as it sounds. Reproduction of “bootleg DVDs” is a felony in many states. Hardened criminals counterfeit DVDs? Not really. Be careful before you judge a man if you have not walked a mile in his shoes. Again, not an excuse to break the law – but a reason.
We, the general public, have a stereotypical perception of people in jail and/or prison. But without knowing the details, we shouldn’t make assumptions. Men and women often sit for months waiting to go to trial. Meanwhile they lose everything they have – jobs, cars, homes and relationships. They often become frustrated and catch additional charges from acting out those frustrations. And even if they are found innocent or released, they have lost everything. African Americans, some guilty and some innocent, are largely targeted and profiled. So I say to our young people, if you fit the profile, you will get profiled. If you wear sagging pants, smell like “weed” or dress like a prostitute, you will be stereotyped, like it or not.
There is no excuse for committing a crime, none. But there are reasons, cause and effect relationships and catalysts.
We often criticize the perpetrator without knowing the circumstances (in non-violent crimes). When most of us here the word “crime“, we tend to think of violent crime. But there are many crimes that are not violent – shoplifting, credit card fraud, check fraud, pornography and so on. And here is a curve ball for you, there are many crimes that most normal, sane, stable people would commit under certain circumstances. I know, I know. Breaking the law is breaking the law – and again I am not making excuses for those who do. However, do you know how many police officers, attorneys and even judges have criminal records? The numbers would make your head spin. And “white collar crime” like those committed by Martha Stewart or former Mayor of Atlanta, Bill Campbell, tends to be met with punishments for those who have money and influence.
Christ went to jail. Mandela went to prison. Martin Luther King Jr. went to jail. And the founders of this country would have gone to jail in Great Britain if they had lost the war.
Finish story here; African Americans Must Realize, Good People Go To Jail Too.