Sunday, June 6, 2010

#216 Double Jeopardy of the media (retro)

Double Jeopardy of the Media

It is almost 8pm as I decide to do a blog about an issue I have dealt with, one that deals with inmates who are judged for their past, even after the original judgment has been served.

With the Superbowl coming this weekend, I am excited to see the Steelers and Cardinals, and I really don’t have a favorite. I like Kurt Warner because he has had a tough road after the Rams dropped him, and it is good to see him back in the Superbowl. But I like the Steelers too, so I can’t call it, although I think the Steelers may win this one.

Again, thanks to those emailing me, those supporting my blogs and the like. These are the last couple of days for the free prison encouragement certificate, I will have sent them all out by Monday, February 2nd.

Now, before I begin, let’s define “double jeopardy”

“subjection of a person to a second trial when he has already been acquitted of the same charge”

This is important to remember because this is very, VERY common in society. Most think it happens in court cases, but it happens in society every day. Too many people in society are hell-bent to see that any ex felon with a job should not have it, and give it to “law biding” citizens. Too many people in society are too busy trying to condemn a person for his past, even after he has served his time.

I bring this up for two different situations, one from an email I got from a wonderful reader. She told me of a local news I think in Cleveland where an ex-felon got a job as a traffic controller, making $12 an hour. She told me that after that news report was shown, the job got emails and phone calls from angry “citizens” because that person should not have that job when so many are out of work.

What you see folks is our society continuing to judge a person for his past. The man did his time, he paid his debt to society, why then is he still being put on trial? I read that and it reminded me of the blog I shared with you guys about a newspaper that wanted to do a story on my blogs. I got an email from them asking to do a story about my blogs and how I was able to get through prison. I thought it was a nice idea, and asked what they needed from me.

The email I got from them had me concerned, because the info they said they needed was a little too much for them to have. Mind you, I am not hiding from anybody, but as an ex felon trying to get my life together, I am NOT submitting my whole name, address, phone number, picture and charges for my incarceration. I asked the person if all that was really necessary, and they said that it was, because without it, they cannot do this story on me, because it might seem that it was made up.

So now I am put at a crossroads…I would sure like to do a newspaper article, but at what price? I had already done this before, and the result cost me my job. The only reason I would now do this story is for vanity…and that wasn’t enough.

So I have decided not to do the story, because I believe that even if done in good faith, I would be judged again for something I already paid my debt for. And the sad thing is, lots of times the media is quite aware of what they are doing, but for the idea of selling another newspaper, they are often willing to throw an ex felon under the bus to make some money.

Now, that sounds harsh, and for that I apologize, because I believe some media have very honest intentions. But I cannot buy that any credible paper or television program could sincerely do a story on an ex felon and NOT know that the backlash of it will likely cost him a second condemnation.

Example: Let’s say I worked at Wal-mart, and I am an ex felon. If I gave that newspaper my name, address, phone number, place of work, nature of crime and all that, what do you think will happen if they published that story?

I say again, even if done in good faith, the newspaper will not take responsibility of what happens next. What if some of our society felt it was wrong for Wal-Mart to hire “criminals”? What if they protested and wrote letters to the store, saying they won’t spend another dime in that store if they are hiring “criminals”?

Businesses operate on public relations, and would likely have to address the matter. If I never told them I was an ex felon, but needed the job, I would be fired because I was not honest with them on the job application. (odd, because if I was, I would never be hired). But if I was honest, and they hired me anyway, they would have to “let me go” because of public displeasure.

Either way, I lose my job.

So what did I gain by doing the article? Sure the newspaper made some coins off the story, and can probably make more on the “follow up” of that story…but it won’t get me a job. After all is said and done, I would have been judged again and found guilty.

We don’t live in a world where this won’t happen…it will because there are too many thick-skulled individuals that seem to think it is their mission in life to keep condemnation on ex felons long after they have served their time.

It reminds me of an idea a lady had on one of the prison sites, one I…for lack of a better word, though was absolutely STUPID. She wanted to create a list of businesses owned by ex felons, so that “we” could support them.

Now COME ON! Do you REALLY think a list of businesses owned by ex felons would be helpful to anybody? The moment such a list is made, those owners would be treated as lepers. There is no sincere belief that a list of such businesses could be taken sincerely, and would not rather be used to condemn each one. You are literally asking those people to lay their lives out there and HOPE that society won’t judge…but if something goes wrong, their lives are ruined and you can’t help them.

This is why many guys who did time are trying to keep their past in the past, because they know that we as a people delight in finding the worst in mankind, and using it against them.

It really surprises me that newspapers and television don’t know that…but then again, I think they do. Heck, I wrote for a college newspaper, and I know about the backlash of writing an ex felon story. And I had it happen to me, so I see it from both sides. I would hate to think that the newspaper actually expected me to give in to my vanity and do the article. Pride makes people do stupid things. If I had, and things got bad for me because of that article, that same newspaper that put the story out there would throw their hands up and say, “hey, it’s not our fault, we just report the news”.

But by doing that, you also created the news, and cost a person his livelihood. And no newspaper is going to give a dollar to help them get it back. So I am resigned to not do that article, it’s not worth it. Sure, the paper said it might help others, but the cost is far too much for me to pay. I would stand to lose MUCH more, and the newspaper would stand to make money. So no, I can’t put my life in the hands of a neutral party, because they would throw my past to the wolves.

Kinda like that scripture, give not that which is holy to the dogs, and cast not your pearls to swine. For they will trample it and turn to rend you. Don’t give something that is important to you to people who will not respect it. My life is important to me, and giving that to a newspaper just for a story will surely result in something negative. If they are not willing to at least meet me half way, then I have nothing to gain.

Anyway, I better go, hope to get more emails from you, email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com.

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