In America, prisons were introduced in 1819, intended to make the criminal obedient to the Bible and the labor of work as a means of correcting them. It was believed that their parents didn't teach them the bible or how to work properly.
One critic said hundreds of years ago that prisons correcting behavior in this fashion was the same as a doctor having one treatment for every ailment. I thought to myself, you know, he's got a point.
Rehabilitation is just as much about you, the public, as it is about me, the "criminal". This has been the problem with prison correction since their creation, society does not readily accept criminals as rehabilitated, we are treated abnormally after our "punishment".
Even when I do rehabilitate and never commit another crime again I will still be the criminal to society. I will still be the stereotype that MSNBC and other television networks have fed you.
But that is why I write. Read my words carefully:
I. Am. Not. A. Threat.
Did I used to be? Yes. Did I do something wrong? Yes. Was I selfish? Yes! But my final criminal act was the murder of my former self. It's not "once a criminal, always a criminal" I am not constantly battling bad thoughts, I don't have to fight back sexual urges, I don't have to take a time out during conflict so that I don't kill anyone, I don't look at butter knives as weapons or have fantasies of easy money by sticking up old ladies or pinning down joggers in the park. None of those things cross my mind. At all. You know what does cross my mind? Friendship, marriage, work, baking cheesecake, washing actual dishes, helping neighbors, finally wearing a dress in public, hot men!
The truth is, I have been wielded above your heads as a weapon, a dangerous weapon to fear so that you remain fearful of becoming me. As if you needed that to be moral.
I am asking you step outside of your comfort zone for just a few minutes and interact with me, get to know me. You will see regret, insecurity and fear, determination and positivity, love and honor, loyalty and the embracement of change.
I will break your stereotype. Prison hasn't rehabilitated me, we did. Thousands of hours of interaction with people who stepped outside of themselves to nurture what was still good inside me, and me, I've worked my tail off to change, it was hard work! But we did it, thanks to people like you.
I know it is hard to think about. Hard to imagine. After all, if I asked you "what does rehabilitation look like?" The general response is usually "walk the walk." Well, show me that runway, because I'm walking the walk...like, right now.
All I am asking is that you, yes you, hit me up. Get to know me a little and if I disappoint you by not being genuine, not being real...check me. Help be part of a success story.
I hope to hear from you. You can contact me directly at:
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Jeff aka Ruthie Utnage