Monday, December 12, 2011

Forgive & Forget - Help The Fallen

For a better tomorrow ...

More should be done to allow least resistance re-integration of ex-offenders into society, not just token efforts.

When you have a brushed with the Law and had paid your dues like doing time, caned and/or a fine, shouldn't society at large be more magnanimous and allows unimpeded integration; saved for offenders of heinous crimes.

Just as a person who faces capital punishment is hanged for his offence, he is done with it. He should not, and (in this case) cannot, be hanged again. This is applicable to both criminal and commercial issues.

It must be noted that not all brushes with the Law are callous disregard for Societal norms, Statutory expectations nor intentional breaches and character flaws but possibly due to a moment of folly or ignorant of existing 'Do's and Don'ts', some would termed these as the grey areas, in Laws. Some will also argue that ignorant of the Laws are no excuses, but like 'dark spots', and if Laws are applied and enforced extensively and strictly by the book, many will be found wanting and infringements will be as common as common flu.

The presumption of innocence (innocent until proven guilty), Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat, can be an expensive experience where few can afford. I hazard to guess that many simply pleaded guilty due to the high costs of engaging lawyers to defend their cases besides the stresses and stigma attached to it. It is notable to know that there are free legal services and advices but how many really qualify? 

Moreover, although there are already provisions in Laws where restrictions are lifted after certain number of years, why wouldn't these be expunged from their records? Do offenders have to carry their past all the way to their graves? 

Of course not.

Support groups and programs such as ISCOS (*Making Tomorrow Better), SCORE (*Building Bridges,Changing Lives) and Yellow Ribbon (*Help Unlock The Second Prison) are trying to re-integrate and help ex-offenders and, by extension, their families to live lives as normally as possible. Even bankrupts are given a second change to make a come back.

It is disheartening to note that many companies, including Government agencies, are still shying away from employing persons who had brushes with the Law, however miniscule, but had paid their dues. They are just paying lip service and not walking the talk. 

It is overdue that institutions fighting the cause for ex-offenders be proactive and engage and speak out against discriminations through moral suasion and, if necessary, lobby for changes. As able and capable leaders and catalysts of change, you have to fight for the cause that you believe in and action it. The fallen need their anointed leaders to champion and lead them out of darkness; just being present is not good enough. 

The recent case of the property agent whose past caught up with him almost cost him dearly. Until today, I have not seen or heard anyone or any institution speaking out for him or address the issue of time bar or the expunging of past records. Justice must not only be seen to be done but has to be seen to be believed (J P Morton); ideally this phrase also applies to expunging of past records.

It is hopeful that agencies involved in championing re-integration will walk the talk more vigorously.

1 comment:

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