What I learned this week

This week I attended a conference for work. Even though I just do IT work, it’s nice to spend time with the people I’m working for and learn more about what they do. Even though a lot of the conference wasn’t relevant for my job, I feel like I learned something very important this week… the system to support people stuck in the justice system sucks.

At our conference we got to hear from some key people in the judicial system, including one of our state’s supreme court justices. I also got to attend sessions by some justices who work with sex trafficking, as well as a former inmate, turned artist. All of these people told a story of a system that in many cases is failing to protect some of the most vulnerable in our society. This is no fault of the many hard working people within the judicial system who are trying to follow a myriad of laws that have been handed down to them by politicians who may or may not understand the issues that are plaguing the system.

A few facts and figures

  • 80% of the people in prison have a history with Family Court. This means that they’ve had a childhood that has already been touched by the justice system. Perhaps they were removed from their parents, or they’ve spent time in foster care. No matter the issue, it’s obvious that many problems start young.

  • 65-85% of all girls in sex trafficking were formerly in the foster care system. Sex traffickers pray on the lonely and those with low self-esteem. Growing up in a system that makes you feel like you’re not worth more than the paycheck your foster family is getting for you, speaks volumes to these young people’s psyche’s.

  • Prisons aren’t doing enough (if anything at all) to prepare convicts for a new life after they’ve paid their debt to society. Many prison programs are in place to simply give inmates something to do, and keep them out of trouble. Sometimes felons can learn a trade in prison, but they don’t learn the practical skills of how to survive in a society that doesn’t trust them. Persons on parole have to behave perfectly. Imagine if jaywalking or getting in trouble at work because you left 5 minutes early meant that you spent 6 more months in jail.

These are just a few of the things that I learned this week. My role with the judicial branch doesn’t affect any of these areas, but as a citizen of society, I weep for what is happening to many of these lives. These are individuals who, many times, have had to start life at a disadvantage. They haven’t had the family support that they’ve needed to become productive members of society. This leaves them susceptible to making very bad choices with their lives, and then entering a spiral that they can never escape.

This is what’s on my mind from this week, and I felt like it was something that I needed to share. Maybe the next time you see or hear about someone in your circle who’s had to come in contact with the judicial system, cut them a little slack. They’ve possibly been struggling with life for a long time, and the best that we can do is try and support them in trying to rebuild what they’ve lost (or never had).

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