When going to the corner store as a child, seeing kids sharing penny candy was often the norm. It was the norm for some to not purchase school pictures, field trips or buy new school clothes because of a lack of money. Attending great summer camps, having plenty of snacks, birthday parties and buying items at festivals and fairs were not and still are not an experience for many. The disappointment of not experiencing what others have the privilege to enjoy on a regular basis can quickly become a defeated and accepted position in life.
As one grows older and sees just how many more aspects of life experiences are granted, limited or completely controlled by having money, it can greatly change desires and expectations. The seemingly ever-present stress and isolation from lack of finances can allow some to devalue the comfortable norms in life and not pursue any of it, writing it off as unobtainable. Some people may take the stance that they deserve the right to be comfortable and will fight to obtain it any way they possibly can, legally or illegally.
I am concerned about the hopelessness that can derive from the exhaustion of experiencing poverty for so many, as well as the place it reserves for them in our legal system. Oftentimes, the pattern of poverty is the precursor and foundation of crimes, changing the trajectory of what one will accept and engage in during their life.
One of the most driving components to experiencing incarceration is compound trauma, which can happen before, during and afterward. Being arrested, enduring jail and losing a job, day care, classes, home, etc., is one of the most powerful and long-lasting effects of the oh-so-familiar strike of not having enough money.
How much money we have plays a role in many more things than what we would like, but it should never play a role in our freedom. The Pretrial Fairness Act has allowed for a new beginning and second chance in what some perceived as their sole ending. The opportunity to secure family, give notice to employers and obligations, secure new times for classes and housing, is now a privilege for many to adjust and prevent the unnecessary snowballing fall for them and their families while waiting on their fate with the court system.
Consequences and accountability must be present when people harm others and their community, but the more restorative those consequences are, the more successful people will be. The average person will harm less if they are given the chance to endure less harm themselves. It is better to adopt the lens of sharing penny candy than to have none and contemplate stealing it. Shared candy tastes the same as when and until you buy your own.
On Sept. 18, Illinois will be the first state in the nation to get rid of cash bond. This is a great day and new beginning for criminal justice reform. For every one that is allowed to do or have better, it allows the community as a whole to do and be better.
Please join Faith Coalition for the Common Good from 2 to 7 p.m. Oct. 27 at Monroe Street Christian Church for a Transformational Justice Expo that will assist individuals affected by the criminal justice system through expungement, obtaining driver's licenses and much more. For more information, contact organizer Quonie Barney at 217-761-0796 or [email protected]. For more information about Faith Coalition for the Common Good, contact [email protected], or 217-544-2297.
Vanessa Knox of Springfield is a co-chair of the Transformational Justice Task Force of the Faith Coalition for the Common Good.