Musings on the US Criminal Justice System and its effect on juveniles (Facebook Archives)

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/22/opinion/a-chance-at-college-for-ex-offenders.html?smid=fb-share

Article link can be found above.

An obstacle to higher education, a road block to rehabilitation. Often, colleges request for applicants’ history of criminal convictions and judge potential students on their suitability largely on criminal convictions. This is unfair, because most students would only have trivial offences like juvenile offences, largely minor ones like alcohol convictions. Such minor transgressions, despite the nature of such offences, often lead to difficulties in college applications for students. They thus face discrimination while undergoing reviews and interviews by college admission staff, with many often choosing to forgo higher education altogether, losing hope on themselves.

Students may have committed transgressions while they were juveniles, but as teenagers, it should be understandable that they were undergoing a new, transformative phase of their lives and would inevitably have broken the law. What really matters is whether these students have chosen the right path of rehabilitation back into society and took charge of their lives. One good step should be the inclusion of opportunities for students to showcase their dedication to serving the community and making society a better place, such as that of community service and letters of recommendation.

In prisons, those undergoing in-prison college programs were shown to have lower reoffence rates. Yet, legislation in the US has barred the use of educational grants for use in prison college programs. If America is to truly tackle the high recidivism rates it faces, it should not focus wholly on the retributive aspects of justice. It needs to help reform convicts’ outlook on life, rehabilitate them back into society, and utilise incarceration as a means of self-inspection and reflection of convicts’ trangressions.

Giving people a fair chance at life and learning to forgive and accept ex-convicts require magnanimity. It may not be easy to accept and we may still have our prejudices and doubts, but if society is to truly mature, this must be the path we should take.

Posted on Facebook on September 25th

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