Community reliance is our legacy of survival

by Darren Miller

These days no one seems to understand the value of a second chance. If second chances are not afforded to those who’ve made mistakes, then what type of society does that make ours?

I speak from the perspective of those who sit behind bars anxiously awaiting a parole date – those of us who have grown to understand that it is not about a handout, but a hand up.

Still, no matter how many trades one learns or certificates of achievement one receives, if no one is willing to put those new skills to use, then how can one ever demonstrate his value to society upon re-entry? Where is the opportunity for redemption?

The alternative to helping parolees is victimization. Then there is the property loss, the permanent dysfunction of families, the psychological damage.

It’s time to change the mindset of free Americans. We know parolees can change because we see so many celebrities who commit the same or worse acts, but they get help and for the most part move on. Status, I should remind fellow Americans, is not a component of human DNA, but being fallible is.

The silly political in-fighting and ideological lines between Republicans and Democrats make us political targets and trophies, but again, our failure marks us for the furthered victimization of society. In California, the cost of incarcerating one prisoner is $50,000 a year.

The jobless rate is extremely high for employable African American males, and we lead in all of the negative economic-social statistics. Instead of job skills, real academic opportunities and basic life skills, today’s prisoners are fed psychotropic medications to simply sedate us and make the guards’ job that much more kickback.

If no one else in society, the African American community must at least help its own. I see organizations such as Homeboys Industries for our Latino brethren. I see a bank of re-entry organizations funded by whites, but not much opportunity for Blacks within the Black community.

Those of us who seek a second chance know we owe our community before our own personal desires. This is how it should be, a win-win. I am within a stone’s throw from release myself and I not only need such assistance but am determined to reach out to my community first for it. Failure is not an option for a community and a people who have seen so much turmoil, who have experienced so much oppression, and yet survived only because it was group effort.

It is only the lone jackal, the single elephant and strayed gazelle that are snatched up by the predators. Those within the group protect and are protected. Therefore, I seek the shadow of a wing to survive and then thrive.

Send our brother some love and light – and the promise of a job. Write to Darren Miller, D-20467,FAB1-208, P.O. Box 4430, Lancaster, CA 93539.