Thankfully, there are many other people and organizations out there that share the CLTL worldview. That is, a belief in the real possibility of personal transformation and an active commitment to improving the criminal justice system.
Here are just a few recent examples:
Shakespeare in the Courts
Shakespeare & Company of Lenox, MA has made news lately with their Shakespeare in the Courts project. “To be sentenced to perform in a Shakespeare play is a little, uh, unimaginable” says Shakespeare & Company’s Kevin Coleman in the video below from WBUR. Coleman goes on to say that “fixing” juvenile offenders is not the objective.
“Our goal is to give them this very risky, very valuable, very demanding experience… and that’s it.”
Watch the rehearsal video:
Pit Bulls & Parolees
Animal Planet now features a show that follows “ex-convicts and ill-reputed dogs” and Tia Torres, the woman attempting to save pit bulls while also providing a second chance to parolees. In this series, rehabilitation stems directly from compassion and connection.
Check out the program at the Animal Planet website.
R. Dwayne Betts
A former juvenile offender, Betts is now an advocate of juvenile justice and prison reform and reading, and author of A Question of Freedom and Shahid Reads His Own Palm, Poems. In a recent NPR interview, Betts says:
As teenagers, our lives are impulse and reaction… Juvenile offenders, who are years away from the maturity and sensibility of a 25- or 30- year-old, need to know that society believes they can be more than their crimes. All any incarcerated minor want to believe is that life can be more than a series of cell doors. They need to know that we believe rehabilitation is not only possible, but real.
In May, The Supreme Court ruled that a juvenile offenders cannot receive a life sentence without parole unless convicted of murder. Betts comments on this ruling, and his related NPR commentary, on his blog.
These stories are not just about second chances. They are about allowing people to fulfill the chance to connect that they already had before mistakes, abuse, life, etc. got in the way. Connection- whether with books, animals, or other people- plays a prominent role in our growth as people. That goes for all of us, criminal offenders or not.