Putting the wrong people in jail

Columnist Rita Corbett says a few years ago she had the great fortune of visiting someone in jail.

A few years ago I had the great fortune of visiting someone in jail.  Fortune?  Yes — I was dreadfully glad I wasn’t on the other side of the glass!

It was summertime, but the prisoners were a sickly yellow. No one in that prison had been outside for six months. The penitentiary was located near a river and there had been too many escapes, so the fresh air privilege was gone.

The inmate and I put our hands up to the glass, pretending we could touch. His hair was unkempt, uncut. We chatted about everything but what was important.  We spoke of guards, food, the daily grind, and what to do with his time. Finally, we got to the heart of it — his plans, his dreams, and how to reach his goals now that he had a record.  It was time to think.

He had made one foolish, impulsive decision, then another and another, until, detained by the quicksand of lawlessness, he was a criminal. When his errors confronted him, he had responded with lies, evasion, and aggression, and now he was stuck. He admitted it was stupid, admitted he was wrong, admitted he wished he’d never gone that way. His past behaviour now made his choices for him.

On Sept. 11, 2001, an event occurred that changed our world forever. Since then, we have to virtually undress at airports, officials rifle through laundry in our suitcases, and we waste billions of hours in security lines. All through no choices of our own.

There are multiple ways now that we can be traced — fingerprints, iris-reading technology, passport strips, chip implants, not to mention Big Brother’s interest in social media. Why not track only the guilty? Let’s leave the innocent majority alone.

Someone recently suggested we brand those who are honest — marking all cooperators so they can freely travel. Why not let the minority — those who distinguish themselves with illegal and harmful activity carry the weight of negative identities?

When the burden is borne by the innocent, the guiltless have literally been incarcerated! What would life be like if the upright, honest, and virtuous were truly free?

Employee theft is at an all-time high. Questionable behaviour is found at border crossings, in towels stolen from hotels, and in tax forms that lie.  Freedom has gotten lost.  It has been chased away by a plethora of sad, inconsiderate, self-centered or radical choices.

This has not come about quickly. To quote a local, highly-principled member of the RCMP, Mr. Colin Champagne, “Each of us puts a mark on society that helps determine the level of integrity that is tolerated.”

As much as possible, this planet’s remarkable, principled folk need to be offered unhindered passage.

Life should belong to those who play by the rules.  It’s just that the straight stretch on the way to town is so tempting … LOL@wltribune.com.

Rita Corbett is a freelance columnist with the Tribune/Advisor.