From a land that gives us the illusion of the happily ever after family, apple pies, milk and honey, comes community organizers and groups to remove crime from our streets, drugs from our children and prostitutes from our corners. There have been many attempts to take these deviant ways out of our lives. These ways include putting the offenders into correctional programs, prisons, group homes (when an adolescent proposes the crime), death penalties and three strikes your out measures, thus considered rehabilitation.
These actions are exercised in society to "treat" or simply get rid of the evil that runs our streets, to help maintain and keep our communities safe. In some cases, these attempts do more damage than good. Isolation of "problem persons" via long or permanent prison sentences can bring about a lack of trust between communities, or for communities in which the person lives. For example, minority communities do not trust police communities, whites, or local government because of extremely disproportionate arrests and detainment of minority men.
By breaking community ties deviant criminals' ability to successfully perform non-criminal activities after or instead of incarceration, diminishes. How can someone not want to hurt a community by which he or she feels disenfranchised? It may be time to rethink the way we view persons seen as committing criminal activity in conjunction to their community. To lead this social movement I nominate myself Tyrone Jones. Through my past work in the ruff neighborhoods of Los Angeles, I understand what the everyday person has to go through after being convicted and stigmatized as a bad person.
We as a community have to come together and except the unfortunate in our lives. We all make mistakes, its up to us to be able to have the opportunity to correct them. If we deem past criminals' outcast we deny them the opportunity to change. By needing violence to be apart of our lives through television or other forms of entertainment, we allow violence and criminality to be accepted. Why then the split, when someone is violent is he criminal? Why the double standard?
The inability to absorb criminal people back into our communities does not support such people and may give permission on some level, for criminals to retaliate against the community. Communities are paying retribution for not being able to live out our not so touchable violence, by snubbing those who are. Creating a split we punish those who are undesirable by some standard, by never allowing them to be perceived as one of us, part of humanity with qualities that differ from others.
On the other hand, do those who act out do so because their sense of connection strengthens their ability to think, "Why should I care, I'm nobody anyway? How we respond to our immediate surroundings and the persons in the surroundings are the basis of communal bonds and interpersonal responsibility. Do leaders who truly believe in community buildings connections, actually make connections with those who choose criminal options for their lives? Such persons are looked upon, as a problem the community must contend with.
They are not seen as members of the community, who would benefit by outreach or support but instead they are subject to other troubles of the community that need to be addressed. How many community groups are out there, inviting previously convicted persons to their block watch meetings? Not to be noted as someone whom to watch out for but as a member of the community who may have a contribution to lend to that or other community activities. A convicted person has strengths to draw upon independent of his criminal ability.
These strengths in conjunction with the deviants wanting to overcome his criminal behavior can be a connection with others to insure their bond with the community. Instead of posing a "scared straight" scenario, education of the community by the deviant, community corrections officers and the acceptance of the community itself of the deviant and vise versa, could build stronger ties that bind. Holding neighborhood meetings that address drugs in schools with persons who deal drugs to children can do this.
Or PTA meetings that invite a past sexual offender who has rehabilitated himself that has moved into the neighborhood to offer what he will do to keep himself from kids. With cooperation from the community members, a plan can be placed to keep kids safe from his deviance. This plan allows the sexual offender a means of feeling part of the community for the preventive information he has provided. If there is a means to make criminal participants more acceptable to their communities, what would these means look like?
It could mean looking at the person as a whole, rather than some negative part. The capability is present to see the good as well as the bad. Work release and probation start to work when jobs are accessible, and the fear of such institutions and where criminals are housed cause the people of some communities to reject these ways of rehabilitation. The reality remains that community space must be shared. That acceptance and working with a strength perspective enhances the ability to work with persons who are known, perhaps, only for the crimes they have committed.
That connecting with such persons can give them a sense of connection and less feeling of separation, creating a less likelihood of a higher crime rate. An argument can be made for recognizing communities need to value the differences as well as the similarities of its participants. These differences should not be the dividing lines for communities to work within. As with differing sexual orientation groups, ethic groups, etc. , valuing diversity means seeing the differences and accepting them, incorporating them, not segregation because of them.
Recognizing subsets of communities does not remove these subsets from interaction with others. What builds a community is we accept each other for the differences, inside and out of the communal groups. Through prevention by making attempts at strengthening connections with youth, the potential to get a kid from becoming a criminal increases. Reaching out to a deviant person instead of screaming allows connection to be encouraged. Working together, educating ourselves, being responsible, and being committed, all of us can make our communities become a whole.