Yes, we live in a world of pre-conceived notions. We judge people and we are judged. This is not a politically correct thing to say, but it is true. SO what??? Get over this and learn from it. This is why I work in criminal justice and why it works for me. When I work with clients, speak at youth groups or appear in media, people are still shocked that I speak the PRISON LINGO.
The truth of the matter is that I have a platform in part because I do not look like what we expect prison and crime to look like. In fact, often when I speak I must remind people that I was actually Federal Prison property at one time. Do they forget because I speak well, have a sense of humor or because I have blonde hair? All of the above. Judgment is a fact of life that if we accept we can learn from and use to our advantage. I like nothing more than to flip the switch and drop the “P” bomb on people when they least expect it. That is one way I know what is motivating them to be around me.
Judgment- Yes, we all do it…the key is to make it work for you. I use my access to shine the light on our incarceration nation and to offer solutions. This is not always an easy task and more often than not I am met with skepticism and denial. We can make a difference and we can change lives. But, we must acknowledge reality.
The current case of Trayvon Martin illustrates this all to well. It is the saddest of sad and all that is wrong with our criminal justice system, and why we must confront these issues and take a stand. Are the police wrong? The District Attorney? Are we ready to change our gun laws? Is racism really at play here? Probably a little of all of this and more. What I do know is that nothing is gained by pretending that the judgments in this case are not significant.
I challenge anybody who is using this case and others solely for their own media “ego” to think about the most important word in criminal justice- CONSEQUENCES. I teach my clients this everyday, and I also live it. Crime is ugly- judgment is ugly, yet we are stalled. Stalled by stigma and stalled by what to do with people who are a part of our criminal justice system. Stalled by judgment. Let’s all try a little harder to understand fact from fiction and leave the judges to those who are paid to do it.
If we take a stand with conviction than we are making a difference. The fact of the matter is that much is wrong with our criminal justice system. What system actually? We have a Hodge podge of laws and punishments. Some states now call their Department of Corrections- Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. That’s a start. Now we need the rehabilitation component. That will come when we understand the judgments, offer programs and job assistance. For now remember that change is possible. What you may think about a situation may not be accurate. Take time to understand all sides and then reconsider.
Wendy Feldman is a criminal justice expert and legal coach. She is available for private consultation on how to prepare for a successful incarceration, probation and re-entry. She is also available for media commentary and has appeared on shows from Today to Fox News. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.