Article first published as http://beenetworknews.com/2013/10/14/a-different-perspective-28/ on beenetworknews.com
“The many of us who attain what we may and forget those who help us along the line, we've got to remember that there are so many others to pull along the way. The further they go, the further we all go.”
– Jackie Robinson 1919 – 1972
The United States is known worldwide as the undisputed leader when it comes to the incarceration of its citizens. 754 per 100,000 people according to data provided by the International Centre for Prison Studies (18 March 2010); and as of August 13, 2013, the Bureau of Prisons identified the type of criminal offenses committed in America as follows:
Drug Offenses: 89,506 (46.8 %)
Weapons, Explosives, Arson: 31,380 (16.4 %)
Immigration: 22,402 (11.7 %)
Robbery: 7,892 (4.1 %)
Burglary, Larceny, Property Offenses: 7,844 (4.1 %)
Extortion, Fraud, Bribery: 11,116 (5.8 %)
Homicide, Aggravated Assault, and Kidnapping Offenses: 5,733 (3.0 %)
Miscellaneous: 1,612 (0.8 %)
Sex Offenses: 11,800 (6.2 %)
Banking and Insurance, Counterfeit, Embezzlement: 822 (0.4 %)
Courts or Corrections: 654 (0.3 %)
Continuing Criminal Enterprise: 485 (0.3 %)
National Security: 83 (0.0 %)
In 2011, despite much opposition, there was an unsuccessful attempt to provide shorter sentences and reduce the non-violent incarceration rate of inmates over the age of 45 via the Federal Prison Bureau Nonviolent Offender Relief Act.
In addition, numerous officials responsible for managing Federal and State prison budgets, continue to search for a way to handle the financial stress of caring for these non-violent populations and to address the constant issue of overcrowding.
Additionally, proposed changes in sentencing of non-violent offenders by Attorney General, Eric Holder and others, reflect the current trend among citizens to seek fairness and equity in the overall sentencing process.
With more than 2 million-plus prisoners across the country, it costs taxpayers $70 Billion a year, roughly $130 dollars per day to house an inmate in the U.S. Prison System. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that many of these individuals will eventually be returning in the not so distant future to a home or community near you.
Returning offenders face many barriers and hardships upon reentry into society. In 2003 the Urban Institute Reentry Round table released a paper on Employment Barriers Facing Ex-Offenders. The report found that the poor skills and work experience of most ex-offenders generally conflict with the skills and credentials sought by employers. Limited skills, poor health, and race or area of residence often reflect a “mismatch” between these characteristics and those sought by employers on the demand side of the labor market. Negative attitudes, housing, potential drug problems and low earnings further compounds their reentry.
Ideally, what should follow next is for communities to support efforts by organizations, which aid in the rehabilitation, training, housing and employment needs of returning offenders to their homes and neighborhoods.
A “Just Cause,” you might say. Organizations like “True Beginnings,” based in Hampton, Virginia and operated by Founder and Director, Vera Moore gets the connection between returning offenders and the needs of the greater community. She is working steadfastly to help reentry for ex-offenders become less arduous.
Moore knows that the obstacles facing her organization and its mission are great. She founded the organization based on her personal experiences and the desire to help others avoid repeating the same mistakes.
She is striving to re-integrate ex-offenders back into the mainstream and teach them how to navigate the transition from prison life to full employment which ultimately helps them regain acceptance in their communities.
The current economic environment has presented some challenges to Moore and her supporters, but a strong faith in GOD, forgiveness and redemption gives her the strength to continue. Year-round fundraising efforts and in-kind contributions are a constant need. However, her belief in the good exhibited by others serves as a reminder that “changing lives” for the better is one endeavor she’s proud to undertake. Moore encourages others to contribute or volunteer in the manner that is most appropriate for them.
She wants True Beginnings to serve as the means to help lessen the stigma surrounding employers and ex-offenders seeking training and employment opportunities. One of her favorite quotes is the following:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught
in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of
destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
–Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
True Beginnings services ex-offenders in several cities throughout Hampton Roads, Virginia. They include Hampton, Newport News, Chesapeake, Suffolk, Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Portsmouth.