*** DISCLAIMER: Generación Latina, Incorporated is an organization that fights for social justice and proudly stands on the fence of EQUAL human rights for all, however the views and opinions expressed in this blog post are solely of writer, Sonjachardé Mixon and do not necessarily represent the views of Generación Latina, Incorporated as an organization.
For those of you that know me…you know I am the oldest of seven siblings, four younger sisters and two younger brothers. If you REALLY know me, you know I absolutely love, adore and confide in my 23 year old baby(ish) brother. You also know that he was recently released from a six year prison sentence. When he came home, I was ecstatic about the opportunities he would have to change his life around and become the man he is destined to be but hadn’t yet had the chance to grow into. I was equally proud of him for taking ownership of his past mistakes and accepting the challenge to build a legacy and life for him the “legit” way, despite the odds against him.
However, I am a REALIST. I have been through enough discrimination and pain to know that good people die with unjust cause, laws aren’t really set up to protect the disadvantaged, people NEVER forget the mistakes you made and tried to right… I was aware of the discrimination my brother would face due to crimes committed almost 7 years ago when he was practically still a child. I knew people would not see the strong, intelligent and loving man he was, but the misunderstood, lost and struggling boy who’s action had been sewn permanently on his records.
Less than a month into being home my brother went to register for school. He completed a high school diploma while serving time, however the first school he went to register for would not accept his diploma. Now let me clarify, the courses he took while serving time were equivalent to the courses that one would take in any high school in the state of Illinois… Yet this school was encouraging him to register for G.E.D. courses in order to enroll in further education with them, despite his obtainment of a high school diploma.
What is the point of even offering prisoners the opportunity to advance their education while incarcerated if the diploma will be scrutinized intimately every time it is presented? Because they committed a crime, is their studying, reading and learning any less significant that someone who goes to a traditional high school? The dire circumstances and environment of incarceration may persuade one to believe that this situation would be even MORE DIFFICULT to earn a diploma in than in a traditional setting…
We all know that most employers won’t hire convicted felons…WHO HAVE PAID THEIR DEBT TO SOCIETY and are often completely different people than they were when they committed their crimes. And then, society has the NERVE to point fingers and get mad when felons return to the same lifestyle that caused them to commit their original crimes… what do you expect them to DO? They have to eat just like anyone else!
Whatever happened to the highly sensible idea of rehabilitation of felons back into society with open non-judgmental arms? Why is it that…the same society that CLAIMS to give people a fresh start no matter what their background… rejects their own citizens? Is that not completely anti-American and anti- the American dream? It’s clear as all damn day on the statue of liberty, "Give me your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore/Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me/I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Why, then, does America fail to lift her lamp beside the golden door of those who desperately want to change their life around and make MEANINGFUL contributions to society? Let me tell you something Ms. America… you don’t get to PICK and CHOOSE who is WORTHY of your acceptance and forgiveness. That is called hypocrisy. And that is NOT the American dream. That is injustice, oppression and discrimination flat out. Do better and leave the shackles off once the sentence ends.