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An Ex-Offender’s American Dream

February 24, 2012

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”-Martin Luther King

Post by Susan Mwarabu

Martin Luther spoke about the American Dream and through much struggle he was able to influence change in our society, broadening the possibilities of the American Dream to include ALL people, regardless of the color of their skin.  For incarcerated populations however, the American Dream remains elusive at best and might only be realized after overcoming an array of boggling hindrances.

English: Dr. Martin Luther King giving his &qu...

I have a dream

Symptoms of the poor health of the American Dream for ex-offenders are summarized in the findings of a recent PEW Center on the States study. The study revealed that:

  1. The United States has the highest incarcerated population in the world.
  2. Currently 2.3 million Americans are behind bars, which is 1 in every 100 adults.
  3. Over $50 billion is spent on incarceration costs alone.
  4. Possible earnings of incarcerated people are reduced by 11% due to employment practices.
  5. 2.7 million children have a parent behind bars which translates to 1 in every 28 children.
  6. Unemployment numbers do not include incarcerated populations. This means that labor surveys paint unrealistic portrayals of employment numbers.

The American Dream is ailing for those with criminal records and the only cure is one which can be administered by members of the broader community. With community efforts such as those by Amicus, the health of the American Dream could be restored.

What is the future of the American Dream? Is it possible for all of us to find a way to work together in creating a healthier dream?

A crime begins and ends in the community. It follows then that the solutions are within the very same community. The solution is in helping ex-offenders find employment, housing and reconnect with offenders’ family members who are often the collateral victims of crime incarceration. Finding ways to restore the American Dream could be in the form of supporting organizations like Amicus or one close to you. It could be in the form of teaching ex-offenders critical skills necessary to find gainful employment.

Just like we came together so many years ago to create a reality of the American Dream so then must we again come  together to create clear unobstructed paths to reintegration. If all people are created equal, we should work to make sure that ALL  have equal opportunity to the American Dream. Together we must keep the  American Dream from becoming an American Nightmare.

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