I wrote a really long response to a post on Amplify.com today and thought it would be appropriate to add it to my personal blog. The post was entitled “Our New Slave Era” by one of my sources A.A. Lee. It referenced a New York Times book review of “Texas Tough – The Rise of America’s Prison Empire”. Here is the response in it’s entirety:
A.A. I am glad you brought attention to this important issue. I do feel strongly that people tend to paint criminals as victims in this debate. I am personally one of those people who would not compromise one iota to keep offenders with a history of violence behind bars for their entire life without concern over what it costs. The idea to me that we have to accept these people returning to commit their crimes over and over again is in no way acceptable. Since our criminal justice system does not rehabilitate, there are certain categories of offenders that should not be allowed to return to society.
I am concerned for any aspect of society that falls behind, what do we do about it though? Who is to blame? I was watching a show yesterday about gangs in Memphis, TN and they talked about how the criminal enterprises were born out of FDR’s new deal “temporary” public housing. What occurred was permanent housing and people who were more isolated from society. Sometimes with the best intentions we create bigger problems. We also tend to want to place blame narrowly instead of spreading it around like it deserves to be. It’s ok to place some blame on the people who end up in this situation, as unpopular as that might be. There is plenty of blame to go around. My feeling is we need to expect more from people who need our help, that way we encourage them to break the cycle of poverty and start to turn the tide in the right direction. When I read articles like this one I feel like we portray people purely as victims and we are supposed to feel guilty and to blame for the situation. That’s not beneficial to anyone. I have met some incredible people working to make a difference in people’s lives, the thing I universally notice is that they expect the people they are working with to make commitments and if they fail to meet them make the opportunity available to someone else. This seems harsh but I would argue that you can improve the quality of more lives by focusing on empowering people to help themselves than by letting them play the role of a victim.
I am glad I am not the one personally making these decisions, and I keep my mind open to change. My feelings on this issue are fairly strong, I want everyone to succeed but I also realize that not everyone will. I don’t want to enable the (likely) large volume of people who fall in-between failure and success to fail by placing too great a burden on society for their mistakes. Personal responsibility is not an option, it’s a skill we need to teach everyone. The lesson will be easier for some than others.
Since I posted such a long response to this I decided to add this to my blog with an appropriate link back to your original post. Off to do that right now. Thanks for the great conversation starter.