They were sitting in the living room playing guitars and singing songs about justice and the lack of it. They had taught themselves to play in prison and they were good. Dave was in the slammer off and on for 15 years for dealing meth and assorted other felonies. Ladd served 20 years for being an accessory to murder. They met in prison and stayed friends on the outside. They were both working and relishing their second chances. This time they swear they won’t throw their lives away.
Over the past week I have had a chance to meet several ex-cons who have been blessed with a second chance. Dave Dahl returned to the family bakery in Portland, Oregon and is the face and story behind Dave’s Killer Bread which has taken off in the Pacific Northwest. Dave has become a celebrity and his bread is flying off the shelf. Ladd works in the bakery store. He is also a face to the public. For whatever bad judgements they made back then they are contributing members of society now.
In Chicago a group of ex-cons are getting a second chance at a fast food restaurant called Felony Franks. They are grateful that someone gave them jobs and don’t really understand why there is ruckus over the name. Jim Andrews who owns the place says his hot dog stand is bringing more prosperity to the neighborhood and is cutting down on crime. He thinks people who are threatening to shut him down just don’t want felons in the neighborhood. The homeowners say they think the name is disrespectful, racist, and reminds people of what the West Side used to be like. They would rather people see a gentrified, changing community.
This is not a circle of people I am usually in contact with but I was impressed by their honesty, their ambition, their desire to contribute. We need to figure out ways to integrate former felons into society again. Otherwise there are no options but to continue lives of crime which victimize people in society. Of course not all are worthy and some crimes are too heinous to forgive but if the men I met are an example there are many more stories of redemption and rehabilitation waiting to be told.
For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.