A significant result of the War on Drugs, and the reality of that community crushing propaganda filled effort, has been the declaration of war on Americans that use drugs. The statistics are staggering with America's incarcerated population growing over 300% since the "declaration", and of course most of this growth has been disproportionaly black and brown citizens. Not because they use far more drugs, but primarily because they are easier targets, and the system is harsher in their sentencing.
So now we have huge populations of ex-offenders returning to those communities and our choice as a society is whether they return to resources that are available to help them become productive citizens, or do we abandon them to become community predators.
Yesterday my Prison Ministry at Trinity United Church of Christ held our first Life Expo for "Returning Citizens". This event was a one-stop-shop opportunity for men and women to connect with resources that might ease their reintegration efforts, from veteran's affairs and expungement support from the Wayne County Bar, to housing, education and entrepreneurial training opportunities.
Between the State of Illinois and the Federal Government there are grants made available to agencies working on this issue, but there are still tremendous roadblocks in the way. In Illinois for instance there are restrictions on felons being eligible for licences for a variety of occupations . . . some make sense, others may make you wonder what the hell were our policy makers thinking. For example, felons can not hold the following jobs:
- Athletic Trainer
- Barber (as the kids say WTF)
- CPA (well, ok I might buy that)
- Nail Technician (really . . . nail technician???)
- Funeral Director
- Farm Labor Contractor
And almost 30 more!
In the end, if we are serious about reentry and providing a second chance for folks that have served their time, we need to be serious about bring some common sense to the issue of licensing restrictions on felons.
What do you think?