29 August, 2019
SECOND CHANCE OR CHAOS? JEROME TEELUCKSINGH, Ph.D.
In the well-known game of Monopoly there is a card known as the "Get Out Of Jail Free" card. In our world there are no such cards and very few get a second chance or more chances. For some of us, it is easy to say yes to “second chance”’ for incarcerated persons. But for others we will want to think twice before allowing them freedom to be integrated into society. And, if you, a family member or friend were victims of crime, there would be little or no sympathy for those behind bars. The imprisoned have broken the legal laws, moral and ethical codes of society.
One of the problems we face is: Who deserves a second chance? Should a shoplifter be considered a ‘”low risk’” case and allowed a second chance while drug dealers and terrorists are denied a second chance? More importantly, if rapists or murderers are given a second chance and they commit similar heinous crimes - who would we blame? And, the pertinent question is: What are we doing to reduce or end recidivism? Should those prison officials and lawmakers who freed these persons be held responsible for death, destruction or damage? Should the public begin civil lawsuits against cities that have allowed repeat offenders to commit crimes?
There are other debatable issues and unanswered questions. Should we allow second chances to inmates who suffer from schizophrenia, who are bipolar, or suffer from a mental illness? If they are given a second chance -- does the society have sufficient resources to monitor them? Our governments should allocate sufficient funds to ensure there are trained personnel and facilities to treat and possibly cure these persons when they are freed.
Second chances should be compulsory for innocent persons! For instance, in 2019, a key witness in a murder trial in 1991, admitted that due to pressure from investigators, her testimony was false. As a result, an innocent Philadelphia man was jailed and finally freed after 28 years in prison. And few of us could forget the teenagers known as the Central Park Five who were wrongfully accused and jailed for the rape of a jogger in New York in 1989.
We need to understand that many incarcerated persons face a parole board but are denied a second chance. These persons might have become model inmates but are denied a second chance simply because of their ethnicity, socio-economic background, or nationality. On the contrary, we know very well that there is a greater likelihood that famous personalities and public figures will be given a second chance. Where is the fairness in the justice system?
It is a chance, an assumption, a belief that those freed persons have been reformed and have positively changed. Those who are given second chances need to understand that it is privilege. Those formerly incarcerated souls must not waste this golden opportunity. A second chance is not a joyride to freedom, it is a two-way street as society allowed these persons to be part of a community and in return- they must regain our trust and confidence.
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