Some of the world’s greatest leaders have found themselves behind bars at some point in their lives.
There was Nelson Mandela and the 27 years he spent on Robben Island, 18 of them in a tiny cell with a mattress on the floor and a bucket for the latrine.
Then there was the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, who wrote a very famous letter from a prison in Birmingham. It was one of the many times he was handcuffed and locked up. And those who read the Bible know that the apostle Paul was once among those who were in prison, just like Jesus himself.
History tells us that just because someone went to jail doesn’t make them worthless, dangerous, or irrecoverable. Many former prisoners are capable of becoming great leaders in our communities if we give them the chance.
Kevin Dolphin, founder of the Breaking the Chainz Resource Center in Harrisburg, knows there are thousands of people in central Pennsylvania who need a chance to get over a run-in with the law. He brings the “Time Done” movement to Harrisburg to ensure that ex-offenders here receive the support they need to start a new life.
Time Done may be about helping people once behind bars overcome the stigma of incarceration, but it’s a major way to keep people from becoming repeat offenders out of frustration, anger, and desperation.
Time Done is a nationwide community of over 80,000 people working to move on with their lives after being arrested or convicted of a crime. It bills itself as the largest community of people with records in the country.
The organization began about five years ago in California, under the banner of the Alliance for Security and Justice, a national 501 (c-3) nonprofit organization. Time Done now has chapters in Detroit, Houston, Ohio and Florida. And there will soon be one in Harrisburg.
Dolphin is hosting an event to welcome Time Done to Harrisburg from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on September 10 at the Breaking the Chainz Community Resource Center, 2134 N. 6th St. The event is designed to provide information and resources to help people of our region. who face barriers to employment, housing, and simply starting a new life due to decades-old criminal records.
In addition to hosting organizations that can provide support to ex-offenders, Dolphin says several community leaders and elected officials will speak about the need to reform the country’s criminal justice system so people don’t get out of years of imprisonment anymore. angry and more hardened than when they entered.
PolitiFact says over 70 million Americans have any criminal record. This number includes anyone arrested for a felony, even if the arrest did not result in a conviction. And thousands of people languishing in prisons across this country could be found not guilty when they finally stand trial. At least half of these people face discrimination in housing, employment and access to financial security.
That’s a lot of people – and a lot of great potential contributions – to just write off. Worse still, it makes a lot of people unhappy, angry and desperate.
With approximately 80% of Dauphin County inmates returning to jail, Harrisburg needs Time Done. And Kevin Dolphin should be congratulated for bringing a ray of hope to thousands of people in Pennsylvania.
Joyce M. Davis is PennLive’s Awareness and Opinion Editor. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @byjoycedavis.
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