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Karon EastParalyzed Soul
By Karon East, Prisonersolidarity.org
Feb. 9, 2007

It is a fact that most of Ohio's 44,000 prisoners will be released at some
point, and when they are they will become ex-felons. There are two types of ex-felons: the elderly and physically challenged ex-felon, and the physically and mentally able ex-felon.

I. Elderly and Disabled Ex-felons

The elderly ex-felons will continue to be a burden to tax payers because they have been kept in prison for so long, that they are unable to support or care for themselves. They have no other choice but to rely on government assistance and charitable resources to survive. Most elderly ex-felons have long ago corrected the behavior that led them to prison, and for many years have conducted themselves as peaceful model citizens of the system. Housing prisoners in prison for decade after decade serves no constructive purpose for the offender or society. Once a decision is finally made to release these fragile beings, the elderly must sometimes wait additional months or years before release, because they have to find a nursing home or halfway house to accept them and give them medical care. Taxpayers will have to pay for this care. The family of most elderly people have passed away or are no longer in contact.

Many elderly could have contributed to their own care had they been released from prison in a reasonable amount of time, and after they had addressed the behavior that had landed them in prison. They could have been productive citizens in their communities. They could have spent some of those warehoused years working, so that they could collect social security. Ohio will have a huge medical bill when it begins paying for the prisoners it has kept housed for 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years - people who haven't been a threat to anyone for decades. Some of the elderly disabled can't walk and are confined to wheelchairs. Some are blind. Some have chronic diseases.
It makes no sense to hold people until they can no longer help themselves. A prison term should include punishment, acknowledgment of one's offense, repentance, and then an attempt to correct and improve oneself through programs and counseling. After rehabilitation the prisoner should be released.

II. The Able-Bodied Ex-Felon

The other type of ex-felon is the physically and mentally able ex-felon. Just like the elderly class of ex-felon, this person will remain a continued burden on the community as a result of lack of integration.

The physically and mentally able ex-felon is eager to meet life on life's terms. They have been punished for the negative behaviors that brought them into prison. By engaging in self-help programs and making use of corrective tools offered to them, they have taken a painful and positive inventory of their defects and shortcomings, and have addressed those issues to the best of their ability. Many ex-felons have evolved from their ignorance, and have no desire to return to a life of criminal activity.

Resources that assist the incarcerated in gaining a shot at employment once released are especially valuable. Most soon-to-be ex-felons are proud of their achievements. Some have obtained GED, vocational certificates, and college degrees, as well as training in fields such as dental tech, carpentry, plumbing, auto repair, culinary arts, business management, and computer tech. They look forward to applying these skills once released.
They hope to prove to themselves, and their families and communities, that they have changed and should be respected.

The biggest setbacks the ex-felons receive come from the community into which they are returning. The communities won't allow them to change, and won't accept that they may have changed. Sometimes the ex-felon's own families are their greatest enemies (the crabs in the basket syndrome). Employers won't give them a chance to prove that they are good, reliable workers. Churches also sometimes won't let offenders change. They pray for them but won't do God's work in assisting them in their time of need. Victims won't acknowledge the possibility of change, even though the ex-offenders have served their time and done all that they can to change. The ex-offenders want to get on with their new, positive life. But the communities they return to continue to expect the worst.

Society fails to take into consideration that ex-offenders are human beings, with the same basic needs as anyone else. They need food and somewhere to live, and they also have bills to pay. Many have families they have to resume responsibility for. It would be to the benefit of their communities to assist them with employment, housing, counseling, life skills and encouragement, so that they won't commit crimes in the future. A person will act out of necessity when there is no positive recourse. In their minds, ex-offenders rationalize bad decisions by saying that they were necessary in order to survive-because their communities, families, and their society has abandoned and rejected them, and left them no other choice. If you take away a man's hope, you have taken away everything. After that, he has nothing to lose.

Society needs to put the necessary safety measures into place, to prevent ex-felons from returning to crime. They need to help them to get jobs with livable wages. The families of ex-felons should have counseling, to help them embrace and encourage the ex-felon's re-entry into society. Ex-felons need to believe that their communities wish to help them, and to work with them in a constructive way.

Hate produces hate. Anger stirs anger. Love and patience have a way of disarming and calming the heart. Help ex-offenders re-invent themselves.
Empower them to take off the shackles of ignorance.

Karon East #28041
1479 Collins Avenue
Marysville, OH 43040

Karon East aspires to be a friend, counselor and motivator to people who have disadvantageously found themselves a victim of crime and the criminal justice system. She wants to be an unresting voice advocating on their behalf, in order to try to right some of the wrongs they've suffered. When writing to Karon, please send her a pre-embossed stamped envelope so she can promptly answer your letter. She is not permitted adhesive stamps, that is, regular stamps.

The following link offers tips for writing to prisoners:

http://www.prisonerlife.com/tips.cfm

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