Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Running Free

Nothing beats running free through the summer grass.

I’m always saddened to see creatures confined behind bars.  When I was younger, I had far less sympathy for humans in that state.  I figured the animals had done nothing to deserve their fate, while the humans’ confinement was a fitting punishment for wrongful actions.  My opinion began to change as DNA testing began to reveal innocent people, who had been convicted and incarcerated for crimes they hadn’t committed.   It took me much longer to recognize that any conviction includes a life sentence, even if the convicted person never spends time behind bars. 

I was interviewing a man in his fifties for a volunteer position on a telephone hotline.    Intelligent, articulate and compassionate, I knew he was perfect for the position.  Although it was a volunteer position, every applicant had to complete a standard employment form.  As I quickly scanned his, I saw that the question about convictions had not been answered.  I assumed he had overlooked it and asked him to answer the question.    He told me that he had been convicted over thirty years before.  He was returning home after partying with friends and was involved in an accident.  In different circumstances, it might have been a no-fault accident.  He, however, had been driving under the influence of alcohol and was held responsible for the accident and the injuries sustained by the other driver, which were fortunately not life-threatening.  He spent a night in jail, was later convicted, did community service and spent three years on probation.    He spent the next thirty years explaining the conviction to potential employers.   He had done wrong, but he wasn’t alone.   He was hardly the first young person to party and overindulge before driving a car.  He was not only punished for the conviction, he was paying the price three decades after his probation period had ended. 

Thankfully, the conviction did not bar him from volunteering on the hotline, but it had barred him from other jobs for which he was extremely qualified.  He later told me that his parents had refused to help him after the incident, feeling that he needed to be taught a lesson.  They had not understood the impact a conviction would have on his life.    I’m sure if they had, they would have been hunting down the best attorneys they could find.   Attorneys like Cobb Eddy Mijares  who understand the ramifications of conviction and work to free their clients from its lifelong impact.   

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