Raise Your Hand

Raise your hand if anyone in your family has ever been to prison.

Raise your hand if any of your in-laws have ever been to prison.

Raise your hand if anyone in your church, mosque, or temple has ever been to prison

Raise your hand if you’ve ever dated or married someone who had been in prison.

Raise your hand if you have a friend who has ever been in prison.

Raise your hand if you went to school with anyone who you later found out went to prison.

Raise your hand if you still admire a famous person despite the fact that they’ve been in prison.

Raise your hand if you believe you’ve ever sat on a bus or ridden in an elevator next to someone who had been to prison.

Raise your hand if you have ever been to prison.

Raise your hand if you know you would have gone to prison for what you did if you hadn’t had enough money to hire a good lawyer.

I’m willing to bet that there’s not a reader left who hasn’t raised their hand at least once.  Some of you haven’t put your hand down yet.

What’s my point?

My point is that being afraid of people who have been to prison is like being afraid of germs.  Your fear doesn’t change the fact that they are still all around you, and going out of your way to get rid of all of them makes you weaker and less likely to survive a genuine threat.  We need a strategy for a safe and healthy co-existence.

Restored citizens are not a separate species, different from everyone else on the planet.  They don’t hatch from pods like in the movie, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”  I’m sure you’ve heard of “six degrees of separation” – the idea that anyone on the planet can be connected to anyone else on the planet through a chain that includes no more than five people.  Guess what?  The separation between you and a restored citizen is no exception.

In case you’re wondering who I’m talking about, let me explain.  Language matters.  Calling people “ex-offenders” long after their offense has been discharged locks all of us in the past, ignores the fact of their restored citizenship, and keeps us from focusing on the skills they have that are useful to society.  When a person has completed their parole and their debt to society has been discharged, with the exception of the right to vote in some states and to own a firearm, their rights as a citizen – fully restored.

How many people are in the chain that separates you from a restored citizen?  Think you’re not connected?  Let me tell you a story:

When I was incarcerated in Illinois, a woman named B. visited me regularly.  Visiting prisoners was part of her church’s ministry.  Anyway, we stayed in touch for years, even after I went home.  B.’s husband is J.  J’s cousin is Ray LaHood.  And Ray LaHood, a Republican from Illinois, was the United States Secretary of Transportation from 2009 to 2013, having been appointed by President Barack Obama.  In effect, a chain of only three people – or one family – separated me, a restored citizen, from the President of the United States of America.

Restored citizens are a thread in the tapestry of our society.  If that piece of thread rots, it compromises the fabric of all of our lives.  Restored citizens need to be able to work and pull their own weight.  They need to be able to earn the money they are capable of earning, rather than being permanently relegated to transitional, entry level, low paying jobs regardless of their education level or skill set.

We have to refocus the conversation regarding restored citizens and employment so that American businesses can see that hiring qualified restored citizens is a viable, safe and profitable option.  There are millions of restored citizens in this country who have a college education, a professional certification and skills to help you make money.  They could be working and paying taxes instead of living off other people’s taxes and doing what chronically unemployed people too often resort to doing.

So:

If anyone in your family has ever been to prison, connect with me.

If any of your in-laws have ever been to prison, connect with me.

If anyone in your church, mosque, or temple has ever been to prison, connect with me.

If you’ve ever dated or married someone who had been in prison, connect with me.

If you have a friend who has ever been in prison, connect with me.

If you went to school with anyone who you later found out went to prison, connect with me.

If you still admire a famous person despite the fact that they’ve been in prison, connect with me.

If you believe you’ve ever sat on a bus or ridden in an elevator next to someone who had been to prison, connect with me.

If you have ever been to prison, connect with me.

If you know you would have gone to prison for what you did if you hadn’t had enough money to hire a good lawyer, connect with me.

And:

If you are a restored citizens looking for top-tier employment, connect with me.

If you are a company looking to hire restored citizens, connect with me.

If your organization needs top-tier restored citizens placed, connect with me.

If you company has restored citizens and need assistance integrating them, connect with me.

If you are a restored citizen who needs rehabilitation resources, connect with me.

After all – whether you know it or not—you’re probably already connected to a restored citizen, anyway.  Because the six degrees of separation includes you, too.

 

As a Restored Recruiter Lisa Forbes is redefining what it means to be a qualified employee and empowering restored citizens to rise above their conviction. Learn more at Lisaforbesinc.com. Also connect with Lisa via Facebook I Twitter I LinkedIn I Youtube

Posted on August 27, 2014 in Journal

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