Should You Speak Publicly about Incarceration and Reentry?

Not many people are open to publicly sharing facts about their criminal past, what it was like to be incarcerated, and how they transformed their lives. Maybe it’s because people can’t cope with the shame and guilt.

An unwillingness to speak out may stem from a perceived inability of others to accept those who have a shady past. Doesn’t everyone long for acceptance? Who wants to be constantly judged by society? It’s no fun, trust me.

Most people with a traumatic past would rather just forget about it and blend in with the rest of society as if nothing has ever happened, but when you carry the mantle of advocacy and resign yourself to speaking publicly, blending in is not very likely.

I wonder if it’s true that the more you talk about a situation the more you heal. I find myself in prisons, jails and at various conferences speaking about incarceration and reentry, and at times I feel like I’m beating a dead horse. I hope I’m not merely intriguing and entertaining people, but enlightening them about the impact of incarceration on individuals and their loved ones.

My deepest desire is to make a difference in the lives of those who may be at risk of incarceration, those currently incarcerated and those returning from incarceration.

I pray that I’m able to motivate concerned citizens toward advocacy, compassion and support for formerly incarcerated individuals who have paid their debt to society for convicted crimes. It’s a huge charge, and that’s one more reason why others may decide to sit back into the quiet recesses of society as they reintegrate.

You may be interested in what’s going on with Reentry in San Francisco

There’s always that lingering doubt as to whether or not people see you as deficient, incapable and underdeveloped. Do they really respect you for the person you are today?

Some people say that the only difference between convicted felons and the people who have never been convicted of a crime is whether or not they’ve been caught.

People speak of making choices that landed them in trouble. Others speak about going close to the line but deciding not to cross over, for various reasons. Are these two groups very different? Can they be defined as better or worse people for it? Can people who did not cross over relate to those of us who did? I wonder.

I guess the important thing that Returning Citizens must learn is to have esteem for ourselves. We must have confidence without defensiveness, and we must forgive ourselves.

Related Video: A Homecomer’s Confession – Eddie B. Ellis Jr. who speaks as an ex-offender.

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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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