Adam B. Clausen
Professor Tony Gaskew, Ph.D.
November 1, 2012
Abstract: This paper is a brief analysis of the choice and effect relationship experienced by all men living within crime infested meighborhoods. The decisions that they make in response to the opportunities that are available to them inside prison, at the halfway house or on supervised release will determine the quality of the lives they lead. This author has experienced every aspect of the criminal justice system first hand and knows all about the possibilities and pitfalls awaiting these men at every step of their journey. They system is not inescapable; successful reentry is available to any man who chooses wisely.
All of the men currently sitting inside prison made a conscious decision to break the law. Some men may have had more options than others but the fact remains that they still always had a choice. Frequently the argument is made that those men living within crime infested neighborhoods "have few, if any, realistic options, and therefore "dealing drugs can be an irresistible temptation," but that is not a valid justification for choosing to break the law and risk becoming incarcerated. Even in the worst neighborhoods there are "working men and women" who get up and go to work each day with the honest intention of earning a legitimate wage to support their families. These workers are not entirely invisible, but they certainly do not command the same attention as the men standing out on the corner each day, center stage, flashing their new clothes, nice cars and rolls of cash. Everyone in the neighborhood knows from experience that all of that "flash" is destined to disappear just as quickly as the cops can slap on the cuffs and cart them off to jail. The people that see the game played every single day cannot claim ignorance of the rules and consequences, for they are well understood by everyone living in the neighborhood.
Prison is an unfortunate inevitability for anyone wrapped up in the drug game, yet there is never a shortage of potential players awaiting an opportunity to get into the game. As quickly as the men disappear form their neighborhoods, they are replaced by those men returning home. Many of them act as if nothing has changed (within them) and this sends the wrong message to the young men who have not yet been fully indoctrinated into the game. These men had an opportunity to formulate a plan for their future while they were away, but instead, they chose to simply bide their time and plot their return back to the very same neighborhood where they were arrested.
Every man comes to a prison a criminal but he does not have to return home the same way. There are plenty of existing opportunities on the inside that few men choose to take advantage of while they are there. Instead, most men choose to spend their days in front of the television, at the card table, or out on the ball court instead of reading or studying about something that might better prepare them for the future. Those men, both young and old, that are required to attend GED classes often exhibit minimal effort or interest in the lessons they should be learning. Vocational training too, is offered in most prisons and can provide realistic, legitimate future opportunities for employment. The reality is that all those men who choose not to utilize the opportunities that have been made available to them are instead choosing to remain criminals, and therefore are repeatedly subjected to the conditions they claim to abhor.
Men such as Duane Henry and Demico Boothe, along with countless other successful parolees, have proven that there are legitimate opportunities for men returning home from prison. None of them ever claimed that their path to eventual success was an "easy" route but they did prove that it was in fact possible, and that should have been enough. They are the ones who should be admired and praised back in their neighborhoods, but inevitably and inexplicably it is the drug dealers that still command center stage.
Life after a criminal conviction will never be "easy," but it is possible to live within the boundaries of the law. If a man has done nothing to improve his prospects for future employment while he was in prison, then he may still have some time remaining while in the half way house to find a job and save some money. Once he is finally released from prison, or the half way house, and returns home to his old neighborhood, he will have many more decisions to make each day, and he must choose wisely.
Those men who have decided that they are going to break the vicious cycle of recidivism and not return to prison, and who are in fact sincere in their efforts, will find that there are people and resources available to them. Now, more than ever before, parole and probation officers have access to funding and services that are specifically intended to aid in the re-entry process. It is up to the men whether or not they choose to take advantage of these opportunities.
The restrictions that are generally placed upon men returning home from prison are often described as "hardships," when, in actuality, they are merely inconvenience. Drug testing, employment verification, and home inspections are simply a means of ensuring compliance with rules and laws that parolees have obviously disregarded in the past. Monitoring parolees and probationers for a limited amount of time is not unreasonable as long as there is a set termination date. Anyone that plans to conform to the laws of society and aspires to succeed in all aspects of their life is not going to be seriously concerned with any of these temporary restrictions. It is the individuals who are planning to continue using drugs and engaging in criminal activities that need to be concerned with these public safety measures, and most often they are the ones lodging the most vehement objections to whatever temporary restrictions they may be facing.
Living within the boundaries of the law is not difficult. Choosing to remain free, at home with your family, should not be a difficult decision to make, but prisoners are selfish and we place our own needs before those of our loved ones. Permanently removing ourselves from the web we have woven is an attainable goal for every single one of us. All we must do is choose wisely and live intentionally in order to enjoy the long, happy, healthy and productive lives that we deserve. How difficult could that possibly be?