Sometimes I get insomnia. I got up this morning, made some hot maple oatmeal and a coffee and set down at my computer to check emails. I came across a newsletter inviting me to read an excerpt from a new book out called The Courage of Compassion: A Journey from Judgment to Connection.
This is quite a fascinating read.
The biggest question of the book is this: Would you want to be judged your whole life for the worst thing you ever did?
The book is written from the perspective and real life experiences of a public defender in the criminal justice system. As the author explains,
“America is home to less than 5% of the world population, but about 25% of the world’s incarcerated people live in America. Even by conservative estimates, at least 5 million people churn through our jails every year. That is larger than the combined population of Phoenix and Chicago.”
Robin Steinberg goes on to say that our criminal justice system is a major employer just behind Walmart in number of employees and provides more institutions than hospitals for this country.
It’s a pretty good book about the realities of day to day public defending here and every person’s, no matter the crime, right to counsel. Robin goes on to describe daily work as much less what is seen on TV or film as passionate defenders. Robin does assert that one should “reject the idea that a person can even be less than human, no matter what they’ve done – even a person guilty of a crime should be treated with dignity.”
This is a good point, not just for those locked up in jails, prisons, and correctional facilities but also those being treated in facilities for drug and alcohol addictions and also those I would argue much more marginalized by being locked up in other types of lockdown facilities such as our mental hospitals and such. Once you find yourself in any of these types of facilities, you are as one would say, “over a barrel.” You must use wisdom and street smarts to get out and an honest effort to reform but you will be followed by your mistake for years and years and years to come. If you are one of the fortunates who are let out of these places at all.
1 in 2 Americans have a family member locked up or who has been locked up. 1 in 3 Americans has some type of record that could affect their future economic opportunities.
It’s a dog eat dog world out there. I’m actually glad I live in America. I have lived in far worse places in the world where I felt less safe. But as I grow older and older, I realize things could be better here in America too. Just stop for a second in your day, close your eyes, and think about each one of them, every single one of these people today locked up in jails, prisons, correctional facilities, mental wards, mental hospitals, addiction centers, different types of nursing facilities and homes, shelters, etc. Don’t think about what they look like or their characteristics. Just think about their mind and their soul and think what they are going through in their thoughts. Think about the millions of collective minds and then pinpoint, one person and think about their thoughts.
We spend a lot of time locking people up. Admittedly, people need to change their ways possibly and reform or try harder to be better human beings, but this system seems to be causing a lot of past trauma for folks and economic hardship down the road. Being judged harshly for one bad step, can totally alter the life path, destiny, and blessings of a person. Some say its providence, that what was meant for their harm can be used for good or God’s will down the road. But just the same, the trauma is still raw and still there and now the person has to cope with anger and trying to forgive. And yes, some things are quite out of our control like being born into a harsh environment or into a poverty trap or being unwittingly among frenemies that sabotage and setup. Think about all the innocent that are locked up too, spending time behind bars for things they didn’t even do.
Things gotta get better. I hope they get better. Here’s the book. I recommend it as a good read.