Why Help Convicts?

By David Lund

Perhaps the most asked question I encounter is why we help convicts. There are many responses to this question but I will narrow it down to these 3:

  • I believe it is a calling as part of my faith

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?

 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ “

Matthew 25:34-40 NLT
  • I know people who have been or still are incarcerated and I want to help them and people like them because I know what its like to make the transition back to the “real world”
  • I believe that there is a better way to address criminality and to help folks returning to their community to get on their feet, get back on track and maintain a lawful lifestyle. Not only does this help former prisoners and their families lead more successful and joyful lives, but it also reduces crime, saves taxpayer money and makes our neighborhoods safer

If you are like many Idahoans, you probably haven’t thought much about prisoners and their families unless you saw a crime on the news. You probably felt relieved to have a criminal off the street. You felt safer. It’s important for me to say that I believe in accountability. If you commit a crime you should have to face the consequences. But I also feel like a community effort may help prevent crime altogether. And if we can prevent crime, then we can prevent someone from being victimized, we can prevent children from growing up with a parent missing due to incarceration, but we can also prevent someone from damaging their future, which usually leads to a long cycle of incarceration.

I’m under no illusion that we can end crime. But I feel strongly that we can impact it and reduce it. The results are safer neighborhoods. Safer neighborhoods impact property values, a sense of safety for ourselves and our families, and increases our sense of community. Reducing crime also reduces the amount of time, money and resources spent on policing, incarcerating and supervising men and women who would have committed crimes. Crimes like drug possession, racketeering, assault, and theft. That means a reduction in taxpayer funds directed at those programs as well. Money saved could result in lower tax rates or in the ability to increase funding for things like our schools and roads. Less crime means safer streets to patrol and safer jobs for first responders. It also means more children will grow up with a parent in their home that they might not otherwise have had. That child will be less likely to grow up and repeat the cycle of incarceration and victimization.

Once you start to analyze the impact of crime, you realize that it has wide-ranging effects. Less crime improves all of our lives. Recidivism rates in Idaho are high. That means nearly half of all prisoners released will go back to prison within the first two years. Many go back to prison after having committed a new crime. We can reduce that number through the programs that BarNone advocates.

There are more than 19 million felons in America.

I just hope that we can start seeing that people are redeemable and that we can, as a society, hold people accountable for their actions but also warmly welcome them back to the community after they pay their debt to society. I don’t think it is sustainable for us to continue to throw people away when they screw up.

Author: BarNone, Inc.

BarNone, Inc. is a Boise, Idaho-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose purpose is threefold: 1. Awareness: holding Idaho Reentry Summit events, conducting social media campaigns and speaking to Idahoans to encourage communication, collaboration and education of the criminal legal system, statistics, and the people who are impacted by incarceration. 2. Advocacy: working with members of the Legislature, municipalities and agencies to impact policy. 3. Resources: connecting people with community resources and support when they are returning to their community after a period of incarceration and centralizing the information for those resources.