By Sue Billings, Columnist
The Mid-South Tribune and the Black Information Highway
One would think that just because someone made a mistake in their immature stages of life would not constitute them being labeled a “forever criminal”. This is a very personal story that I would like to share in hopes that we find a way to change the laws and the discrimination that plague people of color disproportionately.
At 18 my son made a silly mistake that landed him the label of a felon. He sold some drugs. The same amount that had he been white would have been dismissed and given a slap on the wrist with another chance to get his life in order. But once a felon, the label limits employment as our society has stereotyped people who make a mistake as forever criminals. Five years ago, while driving with a gun in the car, which is an automatic 2 years, he spent those two years in a minimum security. Now the law of taking away the rights to bear arms is another topic that I won’t elaborate in this article, but disagree with.
Released in 2009, he came out, went to a trade school, made the dean’s list for becoming an electrician, but has not landed a job because when he applies, the stigma of being a “felon” or what I would like to refer to as a “forever criminal” stops him dead on. From the years of being a young teenager to now being in his late thirties shouldn’t have the forever cloud hanging over his head when he’s trying to do things the way I always taught him was the right way of life. He has always owned up to his mistakes, but how long does he have to keep being reminded of them when trying to move on?
The double standards in this country are staggeringly discouraging. How could Mr. Robert Byrd become U.S. Senator Robert Byrd after openly confessing to being an ex-Klansman but was allowed to go on to live a productive life? Yet, men of color that are trying to be better can’t get the opportunity to show society that they are no longer boys, but grown men trying to make a living as they so deserve.
I want to challenge the law of having 7 years to wait to expunge one’s record once released for those that are trying and are not hard core criminals. Having served in a minimum security facility evidently speaks for itself that these former prisoners were not a threat to society, just foolish. So why is it so tough for their past to be removed so they can give back to society what they so desire to do? The laws that strip people from being productive and given a second chance are the Jim Crow laws that need to be reviewed and removed.
Thank you for allowing me to tell a portion of my story. Now help me change the laws of discrimination.
The above is on the Prison Reform Lane on the Black Information Highway and The Mid-South Tribune ONLINE. Ms. Billings can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or MSTnews@prodigy.net or BlackInfoHwy@prodigy.net . Also, travel on the Sue Billings lane on the Black Information Highway and The Mid-South Tribune ONLINE at www.blackinformationhighway.com. Welcome, Travelers!