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Via: The Indianapolis Star and IndyStar.com
In the News / July 05, 2012
By Doran Moreland
Every so often, an issue emerges that has the potential to bridge the partisan divide. Issues such as these typically offer both moral imperative and enough practical benefits to satisfy people of all political stripes. I will submit that the ways we address Indianapolis ex-offenders and the policies we create to ensure their successful re-entry into society are issues that must be raised and should attract constructive bipartisan discourse. If handled correctly we can achieve societal benefits on multiple fronts by bringing more adults into the workforce while ending the cycle of missed opportunities facing many who have committed past crimes. This approach may reduce crime over time and minimize the costs associated with adults circulating in and out of incarceration.
The time for serious debate about offender re-entry is long overdue. To project a smokescreen of toughness many political leaders have focused only on locking up offenders with little thought about life after incarceration, thereby subjugating our ex-offender population to a lifetime of diminished job prospects, court-related debt and policies that contribute to parent absenteeism.
Fortunately, a local alternative does exist. When I worked for former U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh I came across a small, local nonprofit with a revolutionary idea to dramatically change how society addresses ex-offenders. Recycle Force is a full-service handler of discarded electronic products that primarily employs individuals who cannot find work elsewhere. It provides a much-needed environmental service while helping individuals begin the process of personal restoration through the dignity that comes from a job.
In most cases an incarcerated individual will re-enter society. How we address this reality impacts our communities on multiple levels. Ex-offenders have families, financial obligations, skills and talents to contribute if given an opportunity. When we take into consideration severe jail overcrowding, chronic unemployment and a court system that often penalizes parents who have committed crimes, it does little good to focus only on locking people away. It is personally satisfying to know that for an individual who has proven capable of avoiding trouble, reports to work on time and reconnects with their children if applicable, there is a place in Indianapolis that has a job waiting.
Recycle Force and other alternatives to incarceration and traditional probation should be embraced by our political leaders because the current system simply isn’t working. It is my hope that gubernatorial candidates Mike Pence and John Gregg and congressional candidates shun the simple “lock them up” approach and consider supporting options like Recycle Force for individuals who deserve it. Recycle Force understands the power of second chances for deserving people. Recycle Force offers an opportunity for redemption and, through hard work and responsibility, a life of dignity.
Henry Ford once said, “Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” We have all made mistakes. It would be terrific to see this topic addressed this campaign season. With a bit of political courage, bipartisanship and compassion, forward-thinking policies can be made to create the world’s most powerful crime deterrent — opportunity.
Moreland, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, is president of Exponent Strategies, LLC, an Indianapolis-based public affairs firm.