Every crime has a ripple effect on multiple people.
First, there is the victim of the crime that experiences the crime firsthand and the trauma or loss that comes with it. Unfortunately, sometimes, there may even be more than one victim; say, for instance, in cases like burglary or drug peddling.
Then there is the perpetrator who commits the crime and has to face the legal consequences of their actions.
Finally, by extension, there are the friends and family of the perpetrator who have to face the pain of learning what their loved one has done and how it will disrupt their lives. This often also comes along with a sense of shame, disappointment, and hurt.
Therefore, when we speak about second chances, it would be unrealistic to gloss over these difficult emotions and even life-changing consequences that families and communities go through.
As such, as we delve into conversations about second chances, perhaps it would be a better approach to begin by acknowledging that all of the tough feelings that surround it are valid. It is normal to feel distrust toward a person that hurt you or someone you care about. It is thus also not uncommon that such a loss of trust may make you feel ambivalent or apprehensive toward returning citizens.
However, let us also consider some equally important thoughts: is it healthy to remain stuck in that state of doubt, anger, or hurt? How long can you carry that around in your heart without it weighing you down? Is it fair to eternally condemn members of our families/communities to a life of seclusion and stigma even after they have served time and reformed?
So, after acknowledging the harm done, it is certainly essential to move a step further and recognize the need for second chances and how they can set us all free to build better communities. But let's put this in perspective, shall we?
A quick look at parole structures in most states proves how punitive they can be to returning citizens. So much so that they feel like an encore to incarceration as opposed to accountability systems to help returning citizens thrive.
On a more personal front, the broken relationships between returning citizens and their communities/families can sometimes leave them with little to no support. This can, in turn, lead to high recidivism because when returning citizens feel rejected, castigated, and stuck, it becomes tempting to regress into crime in a bid to earn a living or gain a sense of 'community'.
Contrary to common opinion, the whole idea behind the Second Chance initiative is not to lobby for returning citizens to rejoin society without accountability. If anything we want them to be held accountable during their life after incarceration. But the core idea here is to do so while also extending them some grace and support.
And what does grace look like?
No stigma, a fair chance to find gainful employment, access to services, and community support. To put it simply, it's a fair chance for returning citizens to start over and be the productive members of society that they can be.
There's no doubt that this can be a nuanced journey with complex emotions and some challenges. However, this is why reentry centers like MDRRC are a crucial component in all this. We offer the skills, information, and life tools to help both returning citizens and the community at large navigate second chances better.
So, whether you need counseling, have a returning friend or relative that needs guidance, or would like to support the Second Chance initiative, our doors are always open and you are more than welcome to reach out to us on our online platforms too. We would be delighted to help you bridge the gap.