Posts Tagged ‘criminal justice’

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As I continue to write my book and publish it online (check it out and follow along at: https://www.patreon.com/SusanLewis), I am struck by how natural and easy it is for me to talk to people and conversely, how difficult it is for so many other people.

Why is this?

Short of someone actually physically assaulting you, what’s the worst thing that could happen?

They insult you? So what. You’ve insulted plenty in your life.

They make fun of you? Yeah…again…so what? You’ve done that too.

They scare you? Walk away then.

They disagree with you? OH MY GOD! HOW HORRIBLE! Lock them up and throw away the key.

I remember when I was doing extensive work in the criminal justice system. One thing I needed was help and 99% of the time I’d hear “Yes, I’ll help you but don’t make me go with you in there. I’ll help with mailings or phone calls or even a few bucks, but…no…not…them.”

I’d sort of pause for a moment and look at them.

“Why? What are you afraid of? Another human being? You’re perfectly safe. In fact, you’re safer in there than out here, so what’s the problem? Looking at a student scares you?”

No one could ever really answer my question, so I began to realize it wasn’t the environment (though it is different). It was the fact that they would have to look at another person and take responsibility for them.

Holy hell, what was I thinking?

Well, I’ll tell you what I was thinking and it’s this – that it would be fun, different and I could learn and see “the other side” of things and maybe…just maybe…make a difference.

That I would get out of my comfortable and boring life and stretch my wings and abilities and DO something.
DO something. Not talk about it. I couldn’t handle another conversation about the latest TV show or how difficult someone’s life was because they couldn’t afford to take another vacation or buy the latest phone or car or whatever crap they were worried about.

So I went and now I’m writing about it. I’m remembering as much as I can and I see that on some level, I miss these women. I’m finally at the part of the book where I’m introducing some of them to my readers. I’m struggling with how to describe them so the reader feels they know them and are standing in my shoes.

What did these broken and horrible people do for me?

Well, that’s pretty much what the book is about, but in a nutshell, I can tell you that I learned as much from they as they did from me.

Last I heard, my program was pretty damn successful. 5 years after completing my stint, I heard back that not one of the them was a repeat offender. All of them got out, went back into society and behaved themselves.

The secret?

First of all, I had some great data and help to give them. You can’t get anything done without the correct tools.

Secondly, and I think the most important, is I listened to them. I did not try to change them. I sat down and heard every word they said. I did not coddle them. I did not allow them to be victims. I pointed them in a better direction and let them make their own decisions.

Thirdly, I pulled no punches. I ran a very tight ship, made the rules clear and never let anyone abuse those barriers. I even brought in a whistle to use if they stopped listening to me.

Sitting with the broken is tricky. You cannot allow yourself to get pulled into their crap, which they created, and sympathize and go along with their justifications. We are the ones who build our own traps and we’re the only ones that can unbuild them. Kind of cool and kind of sucks.

You’re the only one that can fix you but it’s almost impossible to do it alone. I tried and it almost killed me emotionally.

We all want everyone to listen and understand us, but how often do you do that for another? Huh? When was the last time you took the time to just sit and listen to someone and not judge them or tell them what they did wrong?
If you want to fix you, first go help fix someone else. Trust me, you’ll find that you’re really not that broken.

You just think you are.