It is becoming harder and harder for who have never had a criminal record to think that they can isolate themselves from those that have. Even if there might have been a time when crime was restricted to certain neighborhoods or classes, the growing conviction and incarceration rates makes it increasingly rarer that an individual would not be in contact with a friend, a neighbor, or a family member who has a criminal past.
In an op-ed in the Colorado Springs Gazette, Jesse Wiese, Prison Fellowship’s director of community engagement, explains that a full quarter of adults in the United States—65 million people—have some kind of criminal record. And restrictions that were intended to isolate criminals from law abiding citizens are now preventing mothers and fathers, co-workers and neighbors, friends and family from fully returning to their communities and having a positive impact there.
“These policies were intended to protect responsible, civic-minded Americans from ‘them,’ a small proportion of people who did harm,” Wiese says. “But now that contact with the criminal justice system has become a common experience, ‘those’ people are our friends, family members, and next door neighbors. ‘They’ are ‘us.'”
Prison Fellowship’s Second Prison Project seeks to change the perception of the men and women who have been through the criminal justice system. It works to remove the legal and cultural obstacles that prevent them from being productive and contributing members of their communities, and encourages those attempting to move beyond their past to work together to overcome this “second prison.” To learn more about the Second Prison Project, visit www.secondprison.org.
On May 8, the Second Prison Project will be hosting the Second Chances 5K in Colorado Springs. To learn more about the event or to register to participate, click here.