Prison Fellowship Director of Community Engagement Jesse Wiese and former Minnesota Governor Al Quie recently penned an editorial for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, highlighting the challenges that hundreds of thousands of men and women face nationwide when they return to their communities from prison. Instead of receiving a fair chance to become productive citizens, Quie and Wiese argue that rules and regulations unfairly discriminate against those who have paid their debts, resulting in a “second prison” that follows them wherever they go.
“We lose the return on our investment in criminal justice if people who do exactly what we ask them to do—pay for their crime, turn over a new leaf and learn skills for a productive future—are unable to access opportunities after release,” Quie and Wiese say. “We seem to believe that people can change; yet we limit returning citizens’ opportunities to engage in civic life …. We love stories of personal transformation, but the road to redemption remains steep and full of potholes for those with a criminal record.”
A big step in correcting the problem, the authors say, is to put faces on the issue and to introduce those who may not have any contact with the criminal justice system to men and women who are struggling to begin their lives anew. They point to the upcoming Second Chances 5K in St. Paul as an opportunity to do just that—to meet those in their communities who are trying to be good neighbors, and to find out ways that they can help these people succeed.
To learn more about Prison Fellowship’s Second Prison Project, and to find out about other opportunities to promote second chances for those returning from incarceration, visit www.secondprison.org.