Recently, I was blessed with an opportunity to speak to a group of prisoners. Finishing a little ahead of time, I opened it to questions or comments. Phrased in a variety of ways, I heard the same question over and over. How do we change society’s perception of us? What can we do to make a difference? What can we do from “inside?”
As a society, we tend to become judgmental when it comes to those who break the law. Too often we hear “Lock him up and throw away the key!” If that offender were a member of your family or someone you cared a great deal about, would you be as certain that they should be doomed to a life of confinement, leaving no possibility for an opportunity to try again? Haven’t we ourselves changed over the years? Remember that candy bar you stole when you were fifteen? I bet you don’t steal candy bars now! Your hairstyle, your looks, your likes and your dislikes have changed over time. Some opinions change over the years. How many times have you had “a drink or two” and gotten behind the wheel to drive? You were just fortunate enough not to harm anyone, and not to get caught.
People change. They grow. They learn. WE ALL DO. Often, they become better individuals. How then can we deny a person the chance to change? Every single person behind bars is a unique individual. He, or she, hurts, struggles, and hopes – just like you and me. So, when a soul wants to know “how can I let society know the Real Me?” I believe we should give pause…and listen…and work toward hearing every voice that has something to say.