Anyone can change, but they must have the desire to do so

Saturday, November 12, 2016

I was passing by someone in Wal-Mart when I noticed the person I was passing had been in the Vernon County Jail many times. Most of the time, this type of encounter does not lead to a pleasant conversation or a friendly smile; but in this case, the gentlemen asked how I was doing and then began to tell me about his new job, and his efforts of getting his life back on track.He also asked me to thank the jail staff, and the deputies he had dealt with in the past for helping him.

Most people would not consider getting arrested and placed in jail as help, but I also knew what he meant and why he was saying thank you. The last time he had been arrested, he was in jail for a few months on several charges. During his time in jail, several people were arrested in another county for assault, burglary, and drug possession. They were people he thought were his friends, and always hung out with. He was certain if he had not been in jail, he would have been with them that night. Now he was heading home to his family, and his old "friends" will most likely be heading to prison for a long time.

With decades of records, millions of dollars in research, and countless hours of study, there is still a nationwide debate when it comes to the recidivism rate, what causes it, and how best to handle it. There have been countless programs with some showing promise and some not working at all, but there has not been any program or method that has proven to work always and reduce or stop repeat offenders.

I support any program that can make any difference at all in someone's life, but I also think maybe there has been a very large factor left out of many debates when it comes to repeat offenders. There must be a desire to change. Throwing a life jacket to someone does not help if they do not grab it.

The next challenge would be to help find a way to increase the desire to improve one's life and make better choices. This is something that can be approached in programs in jails and prisons, but it would take so much more than that to be successful. For someone to have the desire to change their way of life, that desire needs to come from something that can be an anchor in their life, something that will be there long after they have left jail and any program that could be offered there. This could be family, church, local organizations, and even employment. Something that gives them a sense of worth and a desire to be a part of something.

Working with some of the various groups and organizations in Vernon County has been very encouraging; and being able to meet people who are living a responsible life, one that is completely opposite from what they used to live, makes this job much more enjoyable. I am looking forward to continuing working with the groups that offer help to those while in our jail, and those who offer help and support when they are released.

I mentioned above that someone must be willing to grab the life jacket, but we must also remember, someone must be there to throw the life jacket if we want them to grab it. When someone commits a crime, they must pay the penalty for doing so. But for those who do make that decision to change, we must be willing to provide that opportunity, and help them become a law-abiding citizen once again.