Is the Debt Ever Paid?

There is a common saying among people that have been released from prison, back into society. They say, “I have paid my debt to society”. The feeling is, since the sentence that was imposed by the judge has been satisfied, consequently, the debt has been satisfied. The sentence is viewed as the payment for the harm that has been done to society by the individual.

Where did that idea originate? In my days, I have never found out who I actually paid. If I could find them, I would ask them this question, “is the debt ever paid?” During the sentencing phase in a criminal court room, the sentencing judge will read a list of reasons for a defendant to consider before entering a plea of guilty. Nowhere in that list does it mention that, “You will not be able to find a job”, “You will no longer qualify for government subsidized housing”, “You will be viewed as a menace to society and an outcast for the rest of you natural life”. Had a judge told me those things, I never would have pled guilty.

What is the purpose of prison? Is it to punish the individual for the crime? Is it to rehabilitate the individual and make him a positive influence on society? Is it to make the general public safer by removing the troublemaker from society? We need to define prison’s purpose and make it as efficient as possible in that regard so our nation can become a safer place.

The “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” mentality is no longer feasible. The cost for that is becoming too much to bear. So we must find ways to receive more return on the investment that is made to keep an individual incarcerated. Prison works- if it is administered correctly. Prison offers a unique opportunity for society to train individuals that either didn’t receive home training, or they choose to ignore what was instilled in them at an earlier time. Warehousing the inmates serves no purpose. That only creates an angrier inmate that will return home with a bad attitude. This person will now cause more trouble than he caused before his incarceration. They need to trained and educated.

If society can begin to see convicted felons as humans, as opposed to, convicts that only want to take and harm society, we will begin to see crime trends decrease. Why can’t we get “the benefit of the doubt”? We are now guilty, until proven innocent. Even those that claim to want to help have a preconceived notion that we will re-offend. It’s not a matter of “if”, it’s a matter of “when”. So why even try to convince them? It would be so much easier to just continue with a criminal lifestyle and get the things you desire. But when you have a true change of heart, you no longer desire the things that led you to a life of crime. And that’s what is frustrating. You know you have changed, but no one will believe you.

Give us a chance, we WILL prove you wrong!
Pastor Brown