By Rebecca Flannery
Discrimination against those who were once in prison is still discrimination. Whether trying to re-enter the workplace or just trying to integrate back into everyday life, former inmates deserve every bit of respect as the rest of us.
People are added into many different prisons every day. People serve their sentences according to the crime they committed. Of course there are inmates who have committed crimes that seem unforgivable, but looking at it from a slightly more virtuous aspect, there’s always room for redemption.
In many ways, the way we treat former inmates is flawed. Inmates are sentenced according to state policy, from minimal time in prison all the way up to the death penalty. Crimes along the range of this time include everything from stealing, minors being in possession of alcohol, driving under the influence and rape. No matter how much time or how little of an infraction the crime was, all inmates are treated equally if they get out of prison — with judgment and disdain.
After life in prison, it is difficult for former inmates to gain employment or be approved for housing. This results in homelessness and ultimately destitution. After a felony conviction, those who were sentenced don’t immediately get their civil rights back. They have to apply for them. This may seem like a just way to go about handling someone who violated laws everyone else follows, but having been stripped of your rights and left to fend for yourself seems inhumane.
I’m not saying that we should live in a society where we should expect people to hold our hands once we screw up. I’m saying there should be room for a little more forgiveness in this world. Where would we be today if our parents never forgave us for driving through the garage when learning how to park? Or if our siblings never forgave us for taking the last donut in the box that was (according to the “halvsies” principle) rightfully theirs? Eventually those small infractions would lead to a life filled with grudges held against us, resulting in multiple different downfalls. It almost seems that life after prison is a world against one, the state and its people all holding grudges for a crime already paid for. It shouldn’t be so.
In Texas, 2.2 million people are affected by what is called deferred adjudication. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services website, deferred adjudication is similar to probation, but “after successful completion of the community supervision and other requirements, the court then usually dismisses the underlying criminal charge and discharges the person from community supervision requirements. Because of this, it’s a common misconception that deferred adjudication does not become a part of a person’s criminal record.” This is where they’re wrong. It stays on their record and is allowed to be scrutinized when said person applies to a job or housing community. If those affected by deferred adjudication are treated just as poorly as those actually convicted, where does the scrutiny stop?
It’s time to re-evaluate the way our court systems are run and ask the questions no one is brave enough to ask. Is there anyone that is too far gone to be redeemed?
Rebecca Flannery is a junior journalism major from Melissa. She is a reporter for The Lariat.