Sheltering in place for the foreseeable future has caused me to think about what it would be like to be in prison. Not in prison during Covid-19. But in prison at anytime. Freedom is foundational to my personal moral code and I have always had a visceral reaction to even the construct of prison and locking up members of society because we are mad at them. And suddenly, we are all wrestling with what it is like not to be able to leave the house. Not to be able to let off steam at the gym, or at the beach or at the bar. And yet, we can run around our neighborhoods and garden in our own private backyards and even walk along deserted beaches if we can find them. And we can watch Netflix all day. And, even with shortages, we can pretty much eat whatever we want, whenever we want. We can drink alcohol and have sex and hug our children all day long and kiss them as we send them off to bed at the end of the day. And we are all still struggling with our imprisonment.
Now, for a moment, think about the worst thing you have ever done on the worst day of your life. And now let's say that what you did was illegal and you got caught. And let's go on another limb and say that while it was illegal, there was no violence involved, nobody got hurt physically. You just did something stupid. Sold some drugs to make money. Skimmed off the top of a register. Something perhaps pretty bad, but again, you are not someone society is afraid of. And now, let's say, you go to jail and make a deal to get five years in prison. Let me repeat that. FIVE years of your life where you cannot run around your neighborhood, cannot garden in your own yard, cannot walk on a beach, cannot watch Netflix, cannot eat anything you want, cannot drink, have sex and cannot hug your children. FOR FIVE YEARS! And for some low level drug crimes that number of years could actually be 10 or 20 years!
Am I saying that shelter in place is really not that bad? Or more importantly, am I saying that our criminal justice system is flawed and outdated. I believe penalties should be reduced from decades and years to months and weeks. None of us will be unchanged after a few months of shelter in place. None of us will go to jail for a few months and be unchanged. When I make this point, I often hear concerns about retribution and consequences. In 2020, is being locked in a cage a reasonable consequence for selling drugs? You could have sold alcohol and nobody would care, right? So it's not a moral question. What if a consequence of breaking the law in 2020 could be few weeks in prison. Wow, would that disrupt your life, as we all now know. Maybe it is coupled with paying back society in the form of a fine or community service. Finland seems to have figured out some good options for alternative consequences and changes for rehabilitation. Shorter sentences and a transition that excludes a permanent record could enable prisoners to leave prison with integrity and grace and a chance to make good on the promises we are all making in our quarantines each night about how much more grateful and better we will be when it is over.
I believe in second chances. I believe in using your strengths and exercising your freedom to choose to be the best version of yourself every day! As we enter a period of high uncertainty for leaders and job seekers, I am coaching virtually and am offering all sorts of 'shelter in place' discounts! Please contact me at unpackingthebox.com or set up a free consultation.