Aging Out of Crime

I was pondering whether or not it is true that people age out of crime. Does serving a lengthy prison sentence make people stop committing crimes once they get out?

I asked Sean Thompson-El, a 50-year-old Criminal Justice major who is a Graduate student at University of Illinois at Chicago. “Both are true,” he said. Sean served a total of 28 years in prison on two separate occasions. Was Sean dodging the question and refusing to take a stance on the issue?

Another angle: Police offer incentive for giving up crime.

So I reframed my question. Is it the time served, or the age of an individual that leads to transformation? Sean has thought a lot about the guilt people experience when they become incarcerated. “They feel guilty about their criminal behavior and the choices they made, but they feel guiltier about abandoning their loved ones,” he feels. “For example, when I went to prison my daughter was three-years old and when I got out the last time she was 31 years of age. I was on the street with my daughter for five years throughout her entire life. As I watched her grow into a woman from behind a barbed wire fence, I was consumed with thoughts of could’ve, should’ve, would’ve. After serving the type of time I served, you get to a place where you don’t ever want to be locked up again. Even the most avid hustler will come up with a new strategy to get money after serving 28 years….”

Video: If the risk is low, let them go.

Studies reveal that individuals commit most crimes during their adolescent years. “The things that we do at 19 years of age we don’t do at 29.” Sean believes that with age he matured and began to look at life differently. “When I was incarcerated on my last bid, my granddaughter was born. She visited me almost every birthday for about 10 years. I grew up and began to respect and cherish my relationships more. The aging out theory is real for me because I’m not a young buck anymore. All have the fighting and violence that takes place in prison–my body can’t handle that anymore.”

“People do age out of crime. Values change; morals change; ideals and perceptions change. All of those changes happen while you’re growing up. That’s when crime is no longer an option.

The Pew Charitable Trusts news on aging in prison.



About Lashonia Etheridge-Bey

Lashonia Etheridge-Bey is a Public Speaker who can candidly and articulately speak to the consequences of youth violence, the effects of incarceration and the challenges of reentry into society. Read Lashonia's Full BIO Here 

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