Being labeled a felon is a rough road when trying to assimilate back into society. It automatically brings a stigma with it that says, “Don’t trust this person, they are no good.” This stigma makes it difficult to find stable employment and housing - two things that are very important during a transition back into society. When a person is released from prison and on Washington Department of Corrections supervision (usually for a 1-3 year period), they have certain requirements; two of these requirements are to be employed and stably housed.
I work with a special population of clients who have this stigma, but with a twist: these men and women have been convicted of crimes that are considered unacceptable according to society’s values and rules. The men and women that I work with are trying to break this stigma by giving back to society. They are giving back by voluntarily picking up the trash on a section of highway. Some of them have been convicted of a sexual crime in nature, but they are still human. Individuals with this label are being released, after having served their sentences, and are asking for a chance to show society that they can change and not re-offend.
I believe that we have failed as a society because we put up barriers and block the advancement of these men and women who have the stigma of being a felon. I would ask that we give these human beings a chance.
Joseph Field, MSW Special Population Program Manager The STAR Project 509.525.3612