From time to time, a letter makes its way to my desk because no one was sure where to send it. I want to share one that gives a glimpse into what our tough on crime policies really do to actual people.
Most of my personal and professional interest is on the policy end, looking at the big picture, seeing how systems work.
But sometimes, you just need to hear a personal story that exemplifies what's so tragic about our system, both for the motivation of why we seek policy changes, and to rebut some of the uglier talking points that float around. The 2.3 million people incarcerated, plus the millions more on probation or parole, plus the millions more with a criminal record, overwhelmingly want one thing: to live their post-sentence life treated just like any other citizen. That means voting rights, access to government support, permission to see friends and family, and help reintegrating into civilian society, particularly housing and employment.
I'm very opinionated when it comes to solutions. But today, I want the focus to be on someone else's voice. I just ask that you hear this handwritten letter and see what the vast majority of offenders are, people just like you and me, trying to make a life in our country.
Dear [let's say, Samantha]:
I am writing at the suggestion of my brother, [John], and my fraternity brother, [Tim]. I am currently incarcerated at the United States Bureau of Prisons [somewhere miles from my city]. There are a large number of [city] area residents here. Many of them are in need of assistance in obtaining employment.
I am particularly interested in assisting [Sarah], a 40-year old, who will be released to [a halfway house] this [soon]. [Sarah] has limited educational resources, but is a good person and, in a job within [his/her] capacity, will, in my opinion, be an excellent employee. What does [s/he] need to do in order to avail [him/herself] of your services?