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Why Relearn Life?

Updated: Nov 21, 2020

“I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you are to love one another.” –John 13:34

Tough on crime rhetoric has created more problems than it has solved. We take people who have come from broken homes and families or whose parents were broken as well, and we put them together; where they will be unable to harm us ever again. “Lock them up and throw away the key”. Why do we think we can throw people away? We recycle and upcycle things, but when people are broken, we attempt to discard them.

“Get rid of that abusive man”. The most dangerous time in a violent relationship is when she tries to leave. When she successfully gets away from him, she may have to send their kid for visitation. And don’t worry, he’ll find another woman who will love him, thinking it will repair all of the hurt he carries from the family who raised him.

There are many problems with this line of thinking, and recently more people are being confronted with those issues. Behind the mugshots you see on the evening news, there are children. Also, many of these disposable humans will be back on the street, sooner than you think and potentially having more children, who now have a less employable parent.

And the cycle will continue. Can’t get a job at release? Commit more crimes. Drug dealing pays well. Can’t get housing? Find a partner. There are plenty of people looking for love in all the wrong places. And that time behind bars made all of the problems with maintaining appropriate relationships worse.

You get the picture – what appears to be an easy fix to an obvious problem can affect many lives. So how do we resolve these issues? The scenarios described are all too common. They’re hidden behind smiling faces on social media. The police see these families often. Those who protect and serve may even attempt to overcome the struggles they face, from their childhood, in their own homes.

We all have a story. Many of us are able to overcome the past hurt that we’ve endured. Some of us become wildly successful in spite of a difficult childhood. But the statistics for many are bleak.


Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years).

For example:

•experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect

•witnessing violence in the home or community

•having a family member attempt or die by suicide

Also included are aspects of the child’s environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding such as growing up in a household with:

•substance misuse

•mental health problems

•instability due to parental separation or household members being in jail or prison

ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood. ACEs can also negatively impact education and job opportunities. However, ACEs can be prevented.…ACEs are costly. The economic and social costs to families, communities, and society totals hundreds of billions of dollars each year… ACEs are preventable. Creating and sustaining safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children and families can prevent ACEs and help all children reach their full potential.


I’ve always cared about people. I like to talk to people and understand how they think. Growing up, I wanted to be a teacher, but when it came time to decide what to major in after high school, I went to my parents, and said, “I would like to get a degree that I can use in two years, in case I don’t make it through four”. I knew I was on my own for paying for school. I know life is unpredictable, and I absolutely hate debt.

“I’m considering either criminal justice or a paralegal program, so that when I finish, I can take a job while I complete my teaching degree.” My mother said, “Go for criminal justice; lawyers are the scum of the Earth”. My father said, “Go for law; criminals are the scum of the Earth”. I told my dad about my mother’s response, and he said, “Tell your mom her divorce lawyer is the scum of the Earth”.

I chose criminal justice. During the course of my program, I recall a discussion about what works to prevent and punish crime. Deterrence doesn’t work. Criminals don’t believe they will be caught. Retribution; "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind" (Ghandi). Restitution seldom occurs, because what can someone who was committing a property crime give? If we lock them up, will they be able to pay back what was taken? Incarceration is 100% effective at preventing crime, as long as the offender is locked up.

But the offenders will be released. Even a life sentence generally equates to 25 years. The prisons are full. And it’s expensive to keep people locked up. Unfortunately for society, that cost extends far beyond room and board during the sentence. It’s beyond the court fees and the attempts to rehabilitate. It’s mental health and healthcare costs for the inmate and often the family they leave behind.


According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Overall, 68 percent of released state prisoners were arrested within three years, 79 percent within six years and 83 percent within nine years.”


Existing mental health services are overwhelmed, but frequently, improper mental health care can lead to an encounter with the criminal justice system. Many people self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, leading to addiction. They call the Los Angeles County Jail the biggest mental institution in the nation. I thought that was a joke when my instructor shared it with the class, but ironically the jail actually houses the largest mental health facility in America.

After getting my Bachelor’s degree, with a minor in psychology, I began working with people who were unable to live independently, due to serious mental illness. I pursued my Master’s in Education, but I didn’t realize all of the ways the course I chose would prevent me from getting a job in a school; with a built in summer vacation. Instead, I began a career in child welfare.

I see the kids behind the news articles. I ask the hard questions of the people who are just meeting me. I come to parents from a place of authority. I represent a system that can take what should be most dear to them. They should be afraid. Fortunately for me, I’m not a scary person. I have no desire to be. And fortunately for them, they don’t have to be afraid. The law now says that we must put in “reasonable efforts” to keep families together.

But they don’t usually know that, and many aren’t afraid. The bad news is that I have to lead a horse to water, and the horse is frequently uninterested. What makes me think I know how to live their life better than they are? College? I’ll contract a company to work with most of these families, for a couple hours a week. They may learn parenting or budgeting or receive help connecting to local resources, such as outpatient counseling. But what if they aren’t buying it?

You see, if someone is encountering a government system, it’s because fear doesn’t work. There are two basic motivators, fear and love. The people I encounter the most are the ones who have encountered far worse things than “the law” knocking at their door, or they’ve encountered it so many times, it’s no longer scary.

But my job is important. I have to ensure the safety of their children. The good news is that they’re rarely “unsafe”. But there’s a reason I’ve been sent there. They need help. If all you ever knew was a life of “getting by”, would a couple hours a week of counseling, imposed on you by a system you’re supposed to fear, persuade you that your mother and father, grandparents and neighbors have all done and continue to do things the wrong way?

Who wants to talk to a stranger about their problems anyway? Not only a stranger, a college educated stranger, with no clue as to where they are coming from or what day to day life is like for them. For some people the available programs are very successful, but others need to get out of their comfort zone to learn and grow....

“I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you are to love one another.” –John 13:34

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