President Obama Visits a Federal Prison

We are all well aware of the complex dilemma America faces as the nation with the largest prison population. I’m pleased to know that the nation is taking a serious look at reforming the criminal justice system.

In July of 2015, President Obama pardoned 46 people, several who were serving life sentences. The President also visited El Reno Federal Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison for male offenders near Oklahoma City. In a video that was recorded while inside the facility the President spoke about the need to “highlight both the challenges and the opportunities we face with respect to the Criminal Justice System.”

President Obama spoke of “reconsidering how we solve crime.” That will be a difficult challenge, indeed.

Video of the President

It makes me think about my own history. When I became incarcerated I was the type of person who needed to be locked up. I was a deviant. Oh how I wish someone would have stepped in to intercede on my behalf, connected me to vital resources and helped me get on the right track, but I was a hard headed adolescent. Moreover, nobody made an honest attempt.

As a result of living a criminal lifestyle, negative thinking, and rebellious behavior I ended up in prison for half of my life. I grew up in prison.

Now that I’m home things seem to be falling in place for me. I still struggle just like everyone else. I’m not always comfortable in settings where I feel like I am being evaluated, or judged whether it be at work, or in public. Is anybody? I still have family issues. Isn’t every family dysfunctional?

I still struggle with managing time, staying focused on my goals and budgeting. Like everyone else, for me, life is a balancing act. For those of us who have served our time and paid our debt, we want a second chance to be first class citizens. We want to be healthy, happy, and prosperous, like other law abiding citizens.

Anybody who is willing to be accountable for their actions, rehabilitates and puts in the necessary work to be a productive member of society, they deserve a second chance. That’s just my opinion.

I don’t know if I will live to see a day when the criminal justice system is used less for the mentally challenged, down trodden, domestically abused, and drug addicted, and more exclusively for those who threaten the safety of society and individuals. I believe the time is coming.

I hope for a time when prisoners are judged for their actions as individuals and the punishment fits the crime they commit. That’s Justice.

A recent article about reentry in the New York Times tells the story of a man who was released from prison after serving 21 years 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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