I will not bore you with the statistics. Some of the numbers you know. In fact, many of you are the statistics, because we are all stakeholders in this painful, even traumatic symbiosis of crime, arrest, conviction, incarceration, release and recidivism.
Think for a moment and I believe you will conclude, as I have during the past 39 years, that we all occupy one or more of the following stakeholder groups in this CACIRR symbiosis (Crime, Arrest, Conviction, Incarceration, Release, Recidivism): criminals, crime response professionals, citizens, careerists, change advocates, change activists and change conquerors.
Criminals are those among us who believe intensely that it is all right to harm others to gain for themselves.
Crime Response Professionals refer to the so-called criminal justice system that includes law enforcement, the judiciary, and prison officials.
Citizens include the essentially law abiding community residents who can be sub-divided into three basic groups–crime victims, potential crime victims, and the FLOC (Families and Loved Ones of Criminals). These stakeholders have at least one thing in common–citizens pay the gargantuan bill for this largely dysfunctional system, with virtually no potential for an equitable Return On Investment (ROI)
Careerists include business owners, and human resource professionals who make hiring decisions, including more often than not, saying no to individuals released from prison, largely because they cannot discern the difference between changing and conning.
Change advocates refer to some of us who believe people can change and some of them will change when given a chance and taught how to do it.
Change activists refer criminals who are mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically committed to the change continuum, to making the arduous trek from crime to contribution.
Change conquerors refer to those relative handful of former criminals who have broken the crime habit, earned and ever-free life and achieved their crime and prison records into insignificance.
I propose a new paradigm for dealing with this incredible issue in our society. First, though, the caveat. I don’t believe that overall people are going to get better and better, but worse and worse. I am a student of Bible prophecy, and that’s the conclusion I see there. You need to know that this perspective determines all that I believe and propose. I do believe, though, that with a well-organized, well financed innovative, creative, enthusiastic system, based in new thinking, or a pro-change paradigm, we can identify large numbers of “change prospects” who can move progressively along the change continuum.
We confront daunting challenges. First, we must see that crime is a way of thinking that justifies harming others for self-gain, and renounce that thinking in all aspects of our personal, interpersonal and community relationships. We must sacrifice the self-defeating notion that criminals are victims of uncontrollable circumstances such a poverty, diminished opportunities, etc. We must also sacrifice the somewhat silly notion that some people appear to be more genetically predisposed to do crime than others. Criminals choose that way of thinking, often very early in life, as I did. We also must sacrifice the traditional idea that by outliving a prison sentence, be it incarceration, or on probation, a criminal, somehow, mysteriously “pays his or her debt to society.”
Let’s analyze that long-held notion. Precisely what is the debt, and when does the criminal pay? Okay, a criminal burglarizes your home and steals a number of items. Who paid for the stolen items? You did, of course. You report the crime to the police. Who pays the police? You do, of course, as a taxpaying, reasonably law abiding citizen. The police arrest a suspect and puts the person in jail. Who pays for the jail? Yep! We do. On the designated court date, you go to court, as the crime victim. But please realize that you–as a taxpayer–pay the judge and the courtroom support staff, as well as the prosecuting attorney, and, often, the defense lawyer, too. Well, the judge sentences the criminal to 60 months in prison. Guess what, as if you didn’t know, we pay for the prisons, too. So again, what is the criminal’s debt? What does the criminal pay? Precisely when does the criminal pay his or her debt to society?
Truthfully, under our present system, criminals simply have to outlive the court sanction. The criminal confronts no challenge to change! To be certain, many prison systems offer educational and vocational programs to foster the appearance of focusing on so-called rehabilitation. The failing occurs in the target itself. Rehabilitation assumes a prior habilitation. But I know for a fact that many, maybe even most, criminals were never truly law abiding citizens. Additionally, rehabilitation, however, we define it, falls far short of the requirements of change. For almost 40 years, I have said: “If you send a drug dealer to prison and teach him to lay bricks, you do not release a brick mason. More likely than not, you release a drug dealer who knows how to lay bricks.
As we continue our analysis, consider this: it costs about $30,000 to keep a person in prison in this country. Add maybe another $20,000 to investigate the crime, achieve the arrest and prosecute the offender. So since, you, the citizen, aka crime victim, triggered this costly process with your report of the offense, what if the system held you individually responsible for the cost? Do you, the official asks, want to pay this in a lump sum, put it on your credit card or use our convenient monthly payment plan? Now, if you had to invest, month-by-month for 60 months, since the bill would have to be paid before the person was scheduled for release, what return on investment would you require and consider to be equitable?
Let’s tackle that issue next time.
See you at success!