Let’s say that a man made a bad choice (or a bad mistake) in his life. If he broke the law and got caught, then under normal circumstances he would pay for that crime by doing time in prison. That would be considered his way of “paying his debt back to society.” However, once he finishes paying his debt and actually “wants to change his ways and live a clean and honest” life, what chances does he really have of doing so? Even if he has the very “best” of intentions, once a possible employer does a “criminal background check” on him or her the record will usually be a strong determinant in “denying” the opportunity for employment. Once someone has already paid his or her debt to society, should this be considered fair? If you take the time to really think about it, once you take away a man’s chance to make an honest living, what other resort does he really have other than to “go back” to a life of crime? I fully understand employer’s concerns as well, because if they actually “hire” a known felon and he commits a crime while employed then that could make them liable for litigation. If we are to believe in the concept of “second chances” then we need to allow opportunities for people to “get them.” I recently heard that some states may actually start “banning” that little box on applications that asks for an applicants criminal history. I think that is an excellent idea (if it actually happens). No one is perfect and for those who live long enough we ALL make mistakes. The issue is whether or not we will be given the chance to “atone” for the mistakes we made. When I was an apartment manager years ago, I had an man apply for the position of janitor. He was honest and admitted to me that he had done time in prison for murder. He was an old gentleman who had spent most of his life in prison and he only wanted the chance to live the rest of his life honestly. He pleaded his story to me and was believable enough that I wanted to hire him. The landlords of the place told me that I absolutely “had” to do a background check on him. Once the results came back they informed me that I could not hire him. I know deep in my heart that he would have been a great employee. Criminal background checks are designed to protect the job place, but do they? Just because a man has done time in prison doesn’t necessarily mean that he hasn’t learned his lesson. The fact that he is even “applying” for a job should mean that he at least “wants” a second chance. Desperate people will do “whatever it takes” to make a living. Once we start denying people that second chance then can we really blame them for “going back” to a life of crime? We will never know if someone has turned a new leaf until we give them the chance to do so. If the states can shield job places from being sued for hiring felons, then that could be a great “starting point.” I hope we can find a way… Thank you for checking out my Daily Thought, and as always I wish you the very best that life has to offer.
Harold Melvin’s Bluenotes and Brett Jolly in concert