so i’m sitting on my couch reading an interesting article on my laptop, legs propped up on my coffee table with a bag of chips well in reach. sounds nice, eh? it’s a good friday afternoon. phone rings and i see a number i don’t recognize. thinking it might be a potential boss calling me i pick up expecting a business conversation.
wrong. pleasantly wrong.
‘is this lucas?’
‘yes it is,’ i reply, attempting to sound as polite as i can.
‘hey, its jeff (last name removed). i’m glad i remembered your number. wasn’t sure i did.’
i met jeff shortly after i moved to halifax almost 3 years ago. half a dozen years younger than me and a temper like a hand grenade, jeff was homeless when i met him. he split his nights between two of the men’s shelters and the out of the cold shelter where i worked. we got to know each other staying up late watching movies while i worked overnights. he would usually come in late looking for a bed and some food. i’d make him some grub and we would talk life while watching old westerns.
classic guy thing to do. ha!
jeff had a problem saying ‘no’ to the wrong crowd. instead of turning and walking away, he got sucked into their bad choices while making his own along the way. it wasn’t long before the law caught up with him and decided he needed to spend some time away from regular society. at the time i didn’t know where he had gone. some times guys disappear. sometimes it’s for the better, other times it’s not.
prison should be a wake up call for people. some people get it while others find the same bad crowd inside jail that keeps them entrenched in the lifestyle. i’ve heard my fair share of guys on the street tell me they became better criminals in prison, sharing ‘war stories’ with other inmates, how they deceived, stole, assaulted and ripped off their way to criminal glory.
criminal college – you may have gone in for break and enter but come out slinging crack in the north end to junkies, hookers and weekend warriors.
this is a classic reason why the punitive justice system doesn’t work. when you simply lock up offenders up behind metal bars, you aren’t doing them or the community at large any benefits. while others may argue the offender doesn’t deserve anything since they broke the law, it stands to reason that the community would be better served by rehabilitating criminals instead of creating holding pens where they are put on ‘time out’ for a while.
punitive justice makes the prison industry and all those invested in very wealthy while helping very few others. restorative justice is a different way of thinking about crime and conflict. a united nations committee on restorative justice defined it in as ‘a process whereby parties with a stake in a particular offence resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future.’ restorative justice is concerned in holding the offender accountable in a more meaningful way, repairing the harm caused by the offence, achieving a sense of healing for the victim and the community, and reintegrating the offender back into the community.
sounds better, doesn’t it?
restorative justice. look into it.
unfortunate for jeff, he didn’t get the wake up call the first time to prison. he kept the same company behind bars as he did when he was free and it only served him poorly when he regained his freedom. the second go around sounds like it jolted him.
‘i can’t go back to that life, man,’ he says to me. ‘i want to do right by my family and by myself. i’ve been doing a lot better since i got out but i’m afraid if i don’t do something more i’m going to mess up again. i need help though..’
i gave jeff my phone number almost 2 years ago after he told me he wanted help. i offered to talk with him about housing options and health-related resources.
he never did call..
‘is your offer still on the table?’ he asks me.
‘i never took it off, jeff.’
‘thanks, lucas. i called hoping you would say that,’ his voice noticeably excited. ‘i promise i’m ready to take this stuff seriously now.’
‘i hope so. i’m no savior, though,’ i explain to him. ‘i can help you figure some things out and put a plan together but i’m no miracle worker.’
that’s where you come in, God.
if you’re reading this, please do me a favor and lift up a prayer for jeff. addictions be broken, past be healed and restoration done.