I know this is controversial, but I don't think people's felony records have much to do with most jobs.
I hadn't thought much about this until I went to a Christian Community Development Association conference and heard, among other people, Michelle Alexander speak about mass incarceration in this country.
This year, my book group read her work, The New Jim Crow. It's hard to read, partly because of the information and arguments it presents, and, honestly, partly because she's a lawyer and could have used a ruthless editor. But I digress.
The number of people incarcerated for nonviolent crimes in this country is staggering, especially young black men.
But even after they've supposedly "paid their debt to society," they are forced to check a box on applications for jobs, housing, even food stamps.
So how are felons supposed to re-enter society and not re-offend if they can't even get a job interview.
The group All of Us or None of Us started a movement to give felons a chance by banning the box on job applications.
Obviously, there are some jobs where a felony record matters, and that's not going to change. But not in every case.
People are fond of saying, "Everyone deserves a second chance," but we're often not willing to act on that saying. So today, I said I would whenever I can.
This is also just common sense. If we want to reduce recidivism rates and keep our communities safer, we need to make sure people exiting prison have jobs so they're less tempted to commit crimes. As long as there's a lock on the door to a decent job, a home, and help, crime will be an easy alternative.
Wait, what does this have to do with Jesus?
A lot, I think, but I'll give a couple of examples.
Jesus is criticized a lot by the religious establishment for hanging out with "the wrong people." And while Jesus doesn't say anything about ex-prisoners, he's pretty clear about visiting them when they're in prison, so it doesn't seem a stretch he would expect us to keep caring when they're out.
And when Jesus meets the woman caught in adultery — a crime punishable by death at the time, just in case you're wondering what that has to do with felons — he tells her, "Go and sin no more."
No restrictions. No lectures. Just forgiveness.