Rehabilitative Justice Career Licensing, Re-entry, community Stigma
“Too many people become involved in our criminal justice system and serve their time only to return home to face additional barriers to employment, education, and housing and public scorn ,” Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States
Chris Edwards is the editor in chief of the AlamogordoTownNews.com and primary contributor. He was a fortune 1000 corporate executive from 2006 thru 2012.
As discussed previously in multiple interviews and articles, in 2012 he was incarcerated to a Federal Work Camp under a plea agreement for tax fraud and mail fraud.
He served his time, completed probation without incident and returned to society immediately as a productive member of society.
Upon returning he was hired by the nonprofit corporation Goodwill Industries of the East Bay and as director of operations had oversight of multiple stores spanning 3 counties around San Francisco plus the e-commerce department. He successfully mentored multiple store managers and leaders transitioning them from prison to productive citizens and thus worked professional programs to slow recidivism.
Mr Edwards learned valuable lessons from the experience and has worked hard to build others upward and create employment opportunities to many. Along the journey he discovered the judicial system does favor those educated and of financial means. He also discovered there are individuals in the system that have dreams and aspirations, get a college education while in the system only to be hit with roadblocks upon release. Many industries deny licensing to a better educated ex-felon due to discriminatory institutional policies that forbid to issuance of licenses if a person has a felony conviction, even if nonviolent or not drug related.
These discriminatory practices limit employment opportunities, place unskilled individuals with advantage over one’s that may be more skilled and place financial pressures on the individual attempting to re-enter the workforce. Some individuals attempting reentry give up! Between the “scarlet letter” placed upon them by the whispers of society and institutional barriers preventing gainful employment for some it’s too much.
Resilient leadership is required and thick skin as a former felon to deal with societal scorn. Mr. Edwards was hired by 2nd Life Media Corporation to establish a business and media presence in Alamogordo, and as such has done so. The presence produces this online publication, and operates other LLC’s within New Mexico and California.
Mr Edwards in collaboration with others drafted a book about the discrimination that exists and offers policy solutions to ease recidivism.
Locally he has been the target of whisper campaigns, threats, social media attacks and hate.
Interestingly, a majority of the most venomous attacks come from seated leaders of the executive committee of the local Otero County Democratic Party.
Two members of the executive committee have recently made aggressive behind closed doors and public attacks in an attempt to undermine the business successes and accomplishments of Mr Edwards, and his business owner, and other members of the public with past criminal records.
As such we decided to review and see what is the New Mexico State Democratic Party’s viewpoint on rehabilitation and re-entry of formerly incarcerated individuals into society? Does the party condone leadership attacking individuals that are on a pathway toward sustainable citizenship?
The Democratic Party Platform of the State of New Mexico reads…
“Democrats seek to improve public safety by reforming the criminal justice system to focus on programs that prevent criminal activity, divert people from crime, prosecution, and detention, rehabilitate the accused and the detained, find community-based alternatives to mass incarceration, and prioritize holistic healing of crime victims and perpetrators through restorative justice practices. All people who live and work in places of detention have the right to high-quality healthcare.”
1. Something is profoundly unjust when almost aquarter of the world’s prison population is in the U. S.,even though our country has less than five percent of the worlds population; and
2. Instead of investing in more jails and incarceration,we need to invest more in jobs and education for theincarcerated and for the average citizen, and end theschool-to-prison pipeline; and
3. The criminal justice system has failed to provideadequate mental health, victim assistance,rehabilitation, andre-entry services; and
4. The “war on drugs”: has led to the imprisonment of-millions of Americans, disproportionately people of color, without reducing drug use; and
5. Policies that provide for prisoner reentry into society and that prevent and reduce collateral consequences based on criminal history should be required to reduce recidivism, recognizing that 95% of all prisoners are eventually released; and
6.A person’s financial situation, appearance, race, address, or ethnicity should not determine if they go to jail; and
7. Adequate funding is required to fulfill the-constitutional right of all defendants to a full and fair trial; therefore, we demand equitable and full financial funding of public-defenders; and
8. Commendation and support of law enforcement-officers who inspire and build a trusting community and employ creative and effective de-escalation strategies; and
9. The diversity of administrators of the criminaljustice system should be representative of thecommunity; and
10. The private, for-profit prison industry is predatory, inhumane, and exploits racist criminal justice policies and should be eliminated; and
11. Adequate training of officers to fulfill their duties is-paramount and we must increase mandatory annual training to include more emphasis on cultural sensitivity, anti-racism, and techniques for de-escalation; and
12. Health care provided to those held in detention-should be on par with health care services provided outside of the criminal justice system; and
13. Public health orders should be followed andenforced at all incarceration facilities to ensure thehealth of allresiding and working in those facilities.
1. Encourage the federal government to remove“marijuana” from the list of Schedule I federally controlled substance and to appropriately regulate cannabis, providing a reasonable pathway for future legalization; and
2. Continue to pursue the expungement of criminal records for those with solely nonviolent, personal cannabis use and possession charges; and
3.Support the use of DNA testing and timely rape kit-processing to protect the wrongfully accused, set free the wrongfully convicted, and prosecute the perpetrators; and
4.Fully fund programs for victims of sexual assault, especially in rural and tribal communities; and
5.Advocate for sufficient funding to hire and train-more competent public defenders to ensure every case can be thoroughly represented and processed in a timely manner; and
6. End mandatory minimum sentences; and
7. Abolish the death penalty and solitary confinement which are cruel and unusual forms of punishment; and
8.Eliminate life without possibility of parole for-youthful offenders; and
9.End policies based on racial profiling that target individuals solely on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, or-national origin, which is un-American and counterproductive; and
10. Prevent conflicts of interest by creating an independent oversight process for the investigation of crime involving law enforcement, including designating a chief District Attorney position and/or civilian oversight boards chartered with investigative authority; and
11.. Remove barriers to help formerly incarcerated-individuals successfully re-enter society by expanding re-entry-programs and preventing employment discrimination based on criminal history ; and
12. Guarantee the voting rights of the incarcerated upon release from custody; and
13. Strengthen and adequately fund diversion and treatment programs as alternatives to arrest andincarceration; and
14. Address all dental and health care needs ofarrested and incarcerated girls and women, including pregnancy-related care; and
15. Require that all incarcerated individuals, including youth, are afforded medical and mental health services,education, and substance-use recovery and rehabilitation services; and
16. Treat prosecution and defense equitably by providing balanced funding for District Attorney and Public Defender agencies; and
17. Create and adequately fund an Independent Wrongful Conviction Review Commission; and
17. Provide adequate mental health facilities and services to reduce the incarceration of the mentally ill;and
19. End the exploitation of prison labor programs by private industry; and
20. Promote expansion of legal aid services in rural communities; and
21. Demand all law enforcement personnel receiveimplicit-bias training, violence management, and mental health first aid beginning in the academy and continuing throughout their years of service; and
22. Demand minimum qualifications for Federal Judge Appointments; and
23. Support specialized courts that focus on unreported groups that need special expertise, such as those with home insecurity and those with mental illness; and
24. Use data- and evidence-based approaches to enact and evaluate criminal justice reform in lieu of anecdotes, testimonials, interviews, media reports, and stories; and
25. Re-evaluate the severity of punishments for drug-related crimes; and
26. Zealously protect the constitutional rights of defendants and victims of crime; and
27. Ensure better health care in places of detention; and
28. Demand full implementation of public health orders in all places for incarceration.
Yet leaders in the Otero Democratic Party Executive Committee members post statements that are counter to the platform of supporting reform and supporting rehabilitation. Instead posts by an executive committee member of DPOC inflame fears, threatening “it to only get worse” and degrades potentially positive outcomes…
Mr. Edwards has never done business with this Democratic Party Executive Committee member, has never served on a committee with him, and is a member of the moderate wing of the Republican Party, thus no direct in person contact except when Crecelius entered the business managed by Mr Edwards, and Crecelius was asked to leave.
The attacks are a blatant attempt to discredit Mr Edwards and an affront to the integrity and intent to the state Democratic Party Platform as displayed above.
AlamogordoTownNews.com sent a note to DPOC leadership asking where the local organization stands on rehabilitation and rather it supports the state platform. To date we have received no response…
The local chapter has ignored our request for clarification on thoughts around restoration of voting rights, ending barriers to licensure and employment etc.
In full disclosure the owner of the business that employs, Mr Edwards has sent a formal complaint to DPOC, out of concern for his safety and that of Mr Edwards, and for the purported violations of the DPOC code of conduct by the hostilities on display via these social media posts.
Recent history has shown social media can be a spring board to violence and escalate tensions between individuals needing support.
The local party has not responded to the AlamogordoTownNews.com email sent above however, the same email was sent to the state level Democratic Party Leadership team. Yea, the state party submitted the following statement from Daniel Garcia…
“Sorry, if it's not too late, below is a brief statement from DPNM:
"An individual who has served their sentence and paid their debt to society still deserves a shot at living a fulfilling and productive life. We believe that once an individual has paid their debt to society, they deserve a just and fair transition back into society. This means having fundamental rights like those to earn a living, provide for themselves and their families, and prosper.
We would like to point out that New Mexico Democrats in the legislature and the Governor made House Bill 4, the New Mexico Voting Rights Act a reality this past legislative session. One of the major provisions of the NM Voting Rights Act is the automatic restoration of voting rights for previously incarcerated individuals, so these individuals can fairly participate in our democracy."
On that basis it’s obvious the re-entry process for those attempting to remembrance society as productive individuals is pitted with institutional resistance, individual prejudices and small town gossip and bias.
- 650,000 Americans return to their communities from prison each year. About half of them will return to prison within 2 to 3 years.
- 80% Individuals that make it 5 years or more post incarceration will generally remain free and productive members of society.
- Nearly 50,000 legal restrictions against people with arrest and conviction records routinely block access to jobs, housing, and educational opportunities, which significantly contributes towards high rates of increased interactions with the criminal justice system and reincarceration of people who have been released from prison.
- Nearly 75% of formerly incarcerated people are still unemployed a year after release.
- A lack of stable employment increases the likelihood that an individual will return to jail or prison. In fact, research has found that joblessness and public scorn is the single most important predictor of recidivism.
And we wonder why the United States has more individuals incarcerated than any other nation in the world?
The US has the highest rates of incarceration and the highest rates of individuals returning to incarceration. Barriers to employment and public scorn are the biggest contributors to recidivism.
Isn’t it time to end the bias, to break the barriers to end the pettiness and break that cycle?
Alamogordo be the small town that leads the example, be the solution.
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