Second chances

Published 6:58 pm Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Should a criminal record ruin a person’s life forever?

There are likely many opinions on that question, and plenty of other questions that could follow. What was the crime? Was it a violent or nonviolent offense? What was the sentence? Do they regret their actions? Are they actively making an effort to live a better life?

These are heavy questions, and it is easy to sit in judgment of another’s mistakes. It’s very easy to cast aside people who have served time in jail when going through employment applications. Background checks are standard procedure for many rentals, and landlords can easily deny applicants based on their criminal records.

With no job and nowhere to live, that doesn’t leave many options, and a return to crime may be the most appealing.

The issue is so pressing that the N.C. Department of Public Safety has formed a special task force to help those with criminal records reintegrate into society. Local reentry boards have sprung up across the state with those same goals, and now one group wants to create one here in Beaufort County.

Of course, it would be remiss not to pointing out what’s already here. For years, the Purpose of God Annex has provided second chances through its Project New Hope program. Through the Christian principals of forgiveness and new beginnings, that program has offered countless Beaufort County residents a chance to put their past mistakes behind them and move forward.

Yes, our actions have consequences, and yes, those consequences do follow us. Sometimes those consequences are closed doors. These are the facts of life, and violent offenses are far harder to forgive than nonviolent ones.

Third, fourth and fifth chances, likewise, are topics for another time. But for those who have served their debt to society, who genuinely want to live a better life, we as a society should be offering alternatives to homelessness, unemployment and a return trip to prison, especially for nonviolent offenders.

Our state leaders have recognized that fact and are working to do something about it. Communities throughout the state are working to do likewise. To do so doesn’t make one soft on crime. Rather, it’s an effort to prevent crime in the first (or second) place.

Taking a chance on someone is just that. You don’t know what you’re going to get. To give a person a second chance is a great act of human compassion, and a recognition that we all fall down in life. If there’s one thing our society could use, it’s a little more compassion.