Guest Posting: Inequality Continued

One day I was sitting in my living room watching something stupid on TV when I got an email from Ang. And it kind of threw me for a minute. She wanted to talk about inequality. Her own (not so unique) inequality. And honestly, though my parents work in the justice system and I have grown up hearing stories about lots of people who make mistakes, who have mental illnesses that prevent them from not making mistakes, and the people who make so many mistakes that they can never ever ever drag themselves out of the hole they’ve dug, this still tugged at me. Because Ang is so honest. Because Ang is a real person who is trying to lead a normal life. Because Ang is doing the best she can. Because she is me and you and that girl down the street who doesn’t even know what life is yet. And Ang’s story makes me breath catch in my throat, and it makes me feel vulnerable, and it’s challenging. So, here we go…

*

Sitting at a red light, a habitual glance in my rear-view mirror, and I see the blue cop car behind me. My blood runs cold, the light turns green as I slowly press down on the accelerator, hating how conspicuous the deep rumble of my truck’s engine is. I signal for a left hand turn, so does the cruiser. My hand is shaking, the ashes from my cigarette flaking everywhere, I’m too afraid to flick it out, to give him an excuse for pulling me over. I can feel my heartbeat in my eyes when his lights come to life, only to have him whip around me and tear down the street. Pulling over, I grip the steering wheel until I notice the cherry from my cigarette has fallen off and burned my hand. The pain doesn’t register because of the adrenaline, but I know it’ll hurt like hell in a little while. For now I just take comfort in the fact I’m not going to prison today.

See I’m a criminal. Ten years ago, in the throes of teenage (But still a legal adult) invincibility, I stole money, a lot of money from my workplace by falsifying returns. It started out because a friend’s girlfriend’s drug dealer was going to hurt her if she didn’t pay him, but once I helped him out, others came to me, and being stupid and naive, I wanted to help them too. The single mom who’s power was going to get shut off, in spite of working 50 hours a week. The old man who had to pick and choose what medications he got that month. The lonely guy who was painfully socially awkward got a puppy. I looked at myself as a modern day Robin Hood, taking from the soulless conglomerate who treated all of us like shit, and giving to the downtrodden. I never kept any money for myself, always giving it away to someone else, or using it to fund a pizza party. Even now, looking back at it, I know where I went wrong, where I got too greedy, took too much at once. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m sorry for what I did, I know it wasn’t right, and I regret it, but it’s human nature to look back at our mistakes and wonder how we could have avoided them.

To this day, I honestly have no idea how much I took. Two hundred here, a hundred fifty there, a few times a week, over almost a year. My last day, the day before I was going to leave for college, I got called into the back office, with the store managers. In hindsight, I see what they did, how they scared me, broke me down, alluded to having cameras that I KNEW didn’t exist, used words to confuse me. But I was young, I came from a good home, and I was scared shitless. They could have asked for anything and I would’ve given it to them.

The only thing I didn’t give them were the names of my “accomplices”. “We know you couldn’t do this on your own. You had to have help. If you tell us, we’ll go easy on you.” I knew it was true, since another manager had embezzled over $400,000 from the company a few months ago and was simply fired. I may have been a thief, but I wasn’t a snitch, and insisted no one else knew about what I did. Management quickly had a signed confession from me, detailing exactly how I took advantage of loopholes in the system. (Side note: Since I left, this multi-billion dollar company has totally changed the way they handle returns, based on the information I gave them.)

We hit a road block when they asked how much. Tears in my eyes, I blubbered “I don’t know…” I vividly remember the associate manager getting eye-level with me, a nasty grin on his face. “Write a number, and make sure it’s big enough, because if it’s not, if you lie to us, you will never see the light of day again.” So I scribbled down an obscenely large number $35,000-$50,000, just to make sure it was big enough. When they had to provide evidence, they included enough receipts to make it to that number. Most weren’t even on my cashier numbers, others weren’t even returns. My public defender was overworked, and my insistence that those weren’t right never got addressed, putting me on the hook for the full amount. Since I was a good kid, not even a traffic ticket, I got off with probation and restitution, but due to lack of dedication on my lawyer’s part I got stuck with two class B and two class A felonies, entering adulthood with the not so enviable title of “convicted felon”.

To look at me today, you’d never know, in fact I still have people who argue with me about it when it comes up. What, you think some suburbanite girl who’s almost thirty is going to lie about that crap? For what, street cred? It’s something stupid I did when I was a silly kid who wanted people to like her. It doesn’t define who I am, and fortunately, I live a totally normal life, still haven’t gotten a traffic ticket, and for the most part I never even give it a thought.

Until I lose a scholarship to college.

Until I can’t get a job for two years, because of that damn checkbox asking if you’d been convicted of a felony. Even McDonald’s won’t take you if it’s money related. Druggies are fine, but not thieves.

Until I can’t go to Australia, because they don’t accept felons, ironically.

Until I get a job at a place that didn’t have the checkbox and get dismissed two weeks later for “no reason”, walking out past people who can’t look me in the eye. This one happens repeatedly, never long enough for me to qualify for unemployment.

Until my husband admits he lives in fear of me being taken away.

Until I get a job in marketing for a dry cleaner, and some cashier I’ve never met in a different state is off in her drawer and since I’m the “career thief”, I get blamed.

Until my mother’s family un-invites her to family events. Because of “the Angela situation”. Similarly when they return invitations to my wedding with “RETURN TO SENDER” on them.

Until I think about having kids, and how my mistakes will affect their chances at having an amazing life. Have I hurt them too?

Until people find out I don’t vote, and decide to lambaste me for not fulfilling my patriotic duty. Do I shut up and take it, or do I tell them I’m a non-voting felon, thereby making them shut up and treat me like an imbalanced psychopath for the rest of our acquaintance?

Until I get pulled over because my vanity plate was easy for a police officer to check at a stop light.

I got arrested because there was a bench warrant out, due to an issue with my wage garnishment because we switched to a new payroll company. The city officer who arrested me was incredibly pleasant, didn’t cuff me, let me keep my cell phone, and we chatted about their new computer system. Since my crime was federal, after booking me at his local station, he had to turn me over to two sheriffs, who weren’t as friendly as he was. They manhandled me, put me in those four way shackles Hannibal Lecter wore, chafing my ankles and wrists raw. They stood back, arms crossed while I tried to get into the van, it was way too high for me to reach with the limited motion I had. While they laughed when I slipped and slammed my face on the step, they sobered up enough to put their hands on their guns when I wiped the blood off my lip. The younger one finally shoved me in the van, and ran my chains through hidden loops so little five foot nothing me couldn’t over power them. The older one locked the door of the little space I sit in, which looks suspiciously like a tall dog crate, and they take me to the infamous “county lockup”. Knowing I won’t get a chance to later, I sob quietly to myself. For the first time in my life, I feel worthless, sub-human.

My shoes are taken away and they give me worn used socks, and an inmate number I’ll have to memorize to make my one phone call. It will be my number for the rest of my life. I sit in a dark cell with a steel door and tiny window, hiding in the only corner without shit smeared on the wall or piss puddled on the floor. I can’t blame whoever left them, this is a holding cell in real life, not TV. There’s no toilet in the corner, and we aren’t allowed to ask. I try not to think about where the red for the graffiti everywhere came from. Curled up in a ball, I only look up when they bring man after man in orange jumpsuits to my cell, not realizing I’m in here, or that I’m a girl until I squeak out a hello. I still have nightmares about the looks in some of those jump-suited men’s eyes as the guards lead them away. I’m told if I don’t make bail by tonight, I’ll get my own orange jumpsuit.

A woman is brought to my cell, she’s pregnant and coming down off a high of some sort. She’s scratching her arms in long lines, talking about how her baby is going to die. I don’t interact with her, I just stare vacantly at the tiny window in the door. She’s mumbling about her baby rotting inside of her when they come back to take her away. The guard pops his head in and tells me someone is here to pay my bail, but the one person authorized to sign off on it is nowhere to be found. After twelve hours, I finally get to leave. The county sheriffs say if I had just paid bail at the city station I never would have had to come here. I have to track down my car and pay for it to get out of the impound lot. The next six months are court dates I have to show up for, but are cancelled or rescheduled minutes before they come up. Because of the court dates, I lose my job, a job that knew about my past, was OK with it, trusted me, loved my work, but couldn’t keep giving me last minute time off.

That experience messed me up for a long time. My record inconvenienced me for a big chunk of my life, but I always glossed it over. People were judgmental, they sucked, but I was still me, I was fine. But the night terrors started, and I still get them when I’m stressed. I involuntarily freeze whenever I see a police officer, wondering if they’re looking for me, if the mention of my name will have them pulling out the cuffs.

But you know what? If I hadn’t gotten arrested I would’ve gone to the college my parents wanted me to, and likely been miserable with a degree I had no intention of using. I wouldn’t have married my amazing husband, I wouldn’t have met or helped the wonderful people I have in the past ten years, and I wouldn’t have been so frustrated at the horrible job opportunities out there that in desperation I started my own business. I don’t mourn the life I could have had if it weren’t for my stupid choices, I revel in the opportunities they gave me to fight harder, to do better. It reminds me not everyone is what they seem, and sometimes, the people society looks down upon are the game changers.

My goal in life is to be a game changer. Any ex-con (A mis-nomer, since once convicted, you’re always a convict. You never really get to the “ex” status) has a hard time getting a job, but men almost always have manual labor jobs like construction to fall back on. Women don’t. Think of the “typical” women’s work industries, teaching or nursing. Good luck getting something in either of those fields. When you try to be a secretary, you need to get into an industry where they don’t care about your record. The only two jobs I was able to get that stuck, were office work for construction and landscaping companies. That’s assuming you have training, there are tons of women out there who haven’t had the opportunities to learn the most basic of work skills. I want to change that, to start a non-profit for woman with records, to help them get job training, partner with companies to give them jobs based on their skills, jobs they can be proud of and succeed at. Find mentors to help them start their own businesses (because I’m also passionate about small businesses), find ways to get them child care if they need it. Give them counseling, hold them responsible for taking charge of their life, instead of being forced to go on welfare or sell drugs because there are no other options. I don’t want anyone else to ever have to feel their mistakes make them less of a person, that they need to give up, that the system has them beat.

I’m going to be really, brutally honest here. When I initially thought about writing this post, I had every intention of it being anonymous. I mean, I have a baby business, mostly online, people will see this, they’ll put two and two together, it could totally sink everything I’ve worked so hard to build up. But then Lauren said something to me after I approached her. She said ‘I think it’s incredibly brave to admit openly and I think it would challenge a lot of peoples’ initial thoughts on “felons”.’ I realized my being anonymous because of the fear of what others would think, that’s not brave, and I would be participating in the very stereotype I’m trying to fight.

For those who are curious, I am very aware of my clients and what my past may or may not mean to them. Many planners will hire vendors on behalf of their clients, handling mass quantities of money. I won’t do that, not because I’m afraid I’ll be tempted, but I know if something happens, I’m going to be the one everyone comes after. I pay vendors on the wedding day, but only with checks made out to them before hand, put in sealed envelopes by my clients. There have been occasions I’ve been given envelopes full of cash, to dole out tips, so I write what I gave each vendor on the back of the envelope, and if there’s anything left I return it to my clients. I do every thing in my power to track everything I do and take away any possible questions.

I don’t broadcast my record, not because I’m ashamed of it, or it needs to be hidden, but it just isn’t relevant. How would you feel about meeting someone and leading off with all your biggest life mistakes? All it would do is make people uncomfortable, or alienate them. Sometimes my clients figure it out on their own (I work for a LOT of lawyers, funny enough), or we become close and it just comes up in conversation. So far no one has had a problem with it. Because I do my job, and I do my job well. The emotionally mature part of me says if someone has a problem with it, there are plenty of other planners out there who can help them. The little girl in me who was never accepted mourns the thought of people not liking me, of talking about me in hushed whispers around the dinner table, or in nasty anonymous comments. But while my past in no way defines me, it has shaped me into the person I am today, and I’m damn proud of who I am.

I know that people typically come to me for the funny, not hard hitting personal exposés. I have a tendency to make anything, no matter how taboo, something that you can walk away from laughing. It’s a point of pride for me, and I started out trying to do it here. Anyone who personally knows me, and knows about my record, will tell you I have no problem making light of it, and revel in poking fun at myself. But in this post it felt forced and crass. I think it’s because too many people have been hurt by this very thing, and they aren’t in a position to laugh about it. I’ve been lucky enough to make it through the sinking tunnel of depression, and see how far I’ve come, so I can afford to joke about my “dark and sordid past”; safe at home with my loving husband while I bake cookies and get semi-steady paychecks. But many people aren’t there yet, and don’t feel they’ll ever get to the point where they’re safe and loved and good enough. There are enough stigmas and jokes about felons, cons and criminals, I just can’t add to it. My goal isn’t to make anyone feel bad for me, or anyone else. Instead, I hope anyone who reads it is perhaps more open to giving someone a second chance. To anyone who has been in a position similar to mine, it’s not the end of the world, even though it feels like it, especially on really bad days. But you can come out the other side and have a “normal” amazing life better than anything you could have dreamed. People as a whole are flawed, beautifully, wonderfully flawed, and they deserve a chance to embrace their flaws and use them to make them stronger.

22 thoughts on “Guest Posting: Inequality Continued”

  1. There’s so much bravery in this. We all have to own our mistakes, but many of us don’t have to keep paying for them over and over throughout our whole lives like this. Thanks for sharing, Ang. This will stick with me for a long time. Good luck with building your non-profit, can’t wait to hear about the awesome things you bring into people’s lives.

  2. Ang, the honesty and grace you show here is all anyone needs to know about you. I’m so sorry that a mistake you made has to follow you with such tough consequences. Thank you so much for your bravery in sharing this with us. I truly believe that the only way to breakdown inequalities is to share with the world the fact that they do exist. Keep believing in your business and your non-profit. I hope so much that excellent things come your way soon.

  3. Wow.

    I cannot even begin to tell you how incredibly moving and poignant this was. How important I think it is for this to be out there. So often our mistakes, and how we deal with them, are what make us who we are.

    What stuck me most was this: “How would you feel about meeting someone and leading off with all your biggest life mistakes”. That bit made me cry, because it’s not something many people understand. It hits very close to home for me, in a very different way, and this post has given me a lot ot think about in the power of sharing how those mistakes shape us and affect our lives.

  4. Wow, this *is* a very brave post. It opened my eyes to something I was totally oblivious to.

    Like Erin said, everyone makes mistakes but rarely do we have those mistakes follow us forever. It sounds like you are in a good place, and I hope that your non-profit does really well and helps many people.

  5. Gah, what a story. And Lauren was right about challenging thoughts about felons . . . We tend to think of “ex”-cons in a particular light — not because our preconceived notions are necessarily true, but because it makes things more convenient and easier to compartmentalize in our heads. We as a society do it with a lot of different groups, which only marginalizes people and does us all a disservice.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. ang, thank you for sharing such a personal experience with all of us. all the best to you and your loved ones and your business!!

  7. Bravo, Ang! Bravo!

    Thank you for sharing your incredible story. I’m nearly done with Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow”. I had some idea of how deep the rot in the so-called justice system was but the book is absolutely incredible at illustrating how systematic the discrimination is and how out of line it is with the rest of the world.

    Your bravery is so admirable. Thank you so much.

  8. This is amazing! You are amazing! I am similar to Lauren in that I have a certain amount of awareness and compassion for the justice system and mistakes (and the mental illness component etc) – but your story is something I have never heard and it is breath-taking. Especially your goals to help women combat their past in a society that makes it hard to do so. Way to go for remaining YOU despite it all.

  9. Ang, thank you so much for writing this brave and powerful post. It really hits home for me in many ways, because (now I am going to try to be half as brave as you) I used to be a drug user. More than 6 years ago I “fell in with the wrong crowd” and began a pretty heavy habit of just about everything you can imagine. It is only by dumb luck that I was not arrested for what certainly would have been felony offenses. Eventually I moved away, changed my life, and became the relatively successful, well-adjusted person I am today. I have a career, a home, a steady paycheck, a loving husband.

    But to be honest, I feel like a fraud. I got these things because of opportunities that NEVER would have been afforded me if I had been convicted of a felony, but you know what pisses me off? I am that person. I am the same person as someone who “got caught.” Only luck gives me a clean record, and I think that is wildly unfair.

    It is obvious that you have been so strong through all this. It is so refreshing to see. So many people find themselves in situations like this and crumble – and I believe that crumbling is often what turns someone from a one-time offender to a career criminal. Not that people are intrinsically bad or want to rebel against the system, but because they have very few choices on how to survive. It’s so easy to see “criminals” as just that. But we shouldn’t be so quick to drop an image label on someone. We are all complex human beings with histories, motivations, circumstances, and we are all just doing the best that we can. We’re all just trying to survive.

    Thank you, again, for this positive post. There should be more speaking out on issues like this. (And I apologize for the novel I wrote in response.) =)

    1. Novels make for great reading!

      I just want to say thank you for writing this. Not going to lie, I went through the rage section of my acceptance, and a big part of it was I knew people who’d done things that (in my opinion) were SOOO way worse, but they never got caught. I got pissed at the people I didn’t roll over on, who became engineers and doctors, and internet geniuses. So they happily live their lives and I’m sitting here dealing with the mess, and they don’t even have the courtesy to friend me on Facebook. But I grew up and learned some things. *cue sitcom moral music*

      The take away works for everyone, felon, innocent, whoever. You are a person, and as such, you’re going to screw up. It’s what makes humanity so wonderful and amazing, that we can make mistakes and come back from them, they don’t have to define us. We can acknowledge our mistakes, thank them for the lessons they taught us, and move on to become better people.

      Don’t feel guilt for not being caught. It sounds harsh but realize you having to go through life as a felon isn’t going to tip the karma scales in your favor, or make life easier for anyone else who DID get prosecuted. Instead, just appreciate the wonderful life you get to live, pay it forward every once in awhile, or share your story. Little things make a big difference.

  10. Thank you to everyone who is taking the time to read this and comment. I always appreciate the thoughtfulness of you all! And the comments are just… so awesome.

    I am honored to be able to share this bit of Ang’s story. Thanks Ang!

  11. First of all, thanks for sharing your story! It was really interesting and thought-provoking. I was wondering if you could clarify (if you’re comfortable) what inequality you’re alleging here–is it because of your race, your gender, your economic status? Or are you talking about the discrimination and inequality that people convicted of crimes face? I totally agree that some of the life-long consequences of being a convict (like not being able to vote) are too harsh, especially in light of the systemic discrimination that is such a big problem. However, I find that less problematic than people who are convicted of crimes they didn’t commit or who receive harsher sentences because of their physical characteristics.

    Do you have any thoughts on that, or suggestions on how we should change the justice system not to discriminate against convicts? Because honestly I think people have a right to know whether someone has committed a crime before hiring them. In a society with imperfect information, criminal records and credit reports (and other external “signals” of our internal characteristics) are all we have to go on.

    Sidebar your non-profit sounds really amazing! I’m participating in an “expungement summit” held by the DC public defender’s office (http://www.pdsdc.org/resources/expungementsummit/SummitSaveTheDate2012.pdf)–it might be something you’ll want to look into once you have your non-profit up and running!

    1. No problem at all! I’m referring to the discrimination and inequality in punishing people for the rest of their lives regardless of how they’ve worked to overcome their past. I can totally understand (in my position), someone not hiring me to work in a bank. Regardless of the fact it’s been 11 years, and I’ve kept out of trouble and been a good little citizen since then, I completely get companies wanting to take care of their business.

      That being said, I don’t think companies should completely discredit a potential employee based solely on their record. It’s that whole vicious cycle thing, we as a society chastise criminals for being a detriment to society, for not bettering themselves, yet make it impossible for them to get jobs, despite the fact there are federal and state benefits for companies who hire convicts for extended employment. It’s like those obnoxious college commercials. “I need money to stay out of jail, don’t have any money because I can’t get a job, can’t get a job because I’m a felon, …” Restitution payments can be pretty hefty, and just like student loans they charge interest in the form of percentage based service fees. After all this time I’ve paid off all my original restitution, but still have about $10,000 in fees to work on. In my state, I can’t get my record expunged until 10 years after my sentence has been completed, and that includes paying off the full amount of restitution.

      In my particular case, I didn’t have any grandiose ideas of any job being beneath me. Yet I couldn’t get a job cleaning kennels, or scrubbing bathrooms, working a fryer, or boxing hangers in a factory. In spite of my excellent computer knowledge, I couldn’t get a data entry job, or be a secretary. I’ve been lauded for my excellent people skills, but couldn’t even get a commission based sales gig.

      It’s situations like this where people turn back to “a life of crime”, or take advantage of government benefits. After a year of unemployment, my case worker told me I was better off getting knocked up and going on welfare. I think it’s wrong to blame people for not doing better when they aren’t given an opportunity to do so.

      It’s far easier to ignore that the problem exists than to try and solve it. I’ve heard of some people who purposely go back to jail so they can get an education and training, things that the outside world wouldn’t let them get.

      That’s not getting into the social aspects of just living as an ex con. While everyone here has been gracious with their comments, that’s not the case everywhere. Things like people at my parents’ church shunning and blaming them for where I went wrong. People who refuse to invite us to their house because they have nice things. Those who treat me like I’m an oddity because I’m “just so normal!”, or invite me to their book clubs and pat themselves on the back for bringing someone so interesting. Like I said, I also wonder how this will affect my kids. Will they not be able to get into good schools because of the poor decisions I made? If I’m in danger, will the police discredit me because of my past?

      I in no way think I have a hard life, that my suffering is on par with those who have had to suffer through racial, sexual and gender based equality. But, I think there are plenty of cheerleaders, resources and educational resources out there for people to become educated and to learn. Of course it’s horrific to pay for crimes you didn’t commit, or to be persecuted simply for being the “wrong race in the wrong place”, but I can’t speak for those people. I’m white, I’m straight, and I live in one of the most woman forward areas of the country. I can only speak for myself and what I’ve been through and what I’ve seen.

      What I’ve seen is people who are convinced that one mistake will haunt them forever, and they give up all hope of moving past it. I’ve seen a system that doesn’t differentiate from a serial killer (Murder is a Class A felony too) and what I did. I see television littered with shows about how it’s impossible for criminals to change their ways, regardless of what kind of front they put up, the bad guy always did it. But mostly I see a population who is either a) completely unaware that “normal” people can be criminals, or b) think those with records are beneath them. All I can do from my little corner is try to educate.

    2. I kind of wrote a novel and forgot to address your second paragraph, sorry about that.

      I think companies should be made aware of initiatives to hire cons, LONG TERM. Unfortunately in an economic climate like this, it’s harder for everyone to get jobs, and the usual fall-backs like construction, landscaping and factory work just aren’t needed when the economy is slumped.

      I’m going to sound like a fat head, but I think the idea of my non-profit is something that can be implemented on a large scale basis. I could go on and on about all the ideas I have, but basically, people need training and evaluation of their potential job skills. There needs to be a bank of companies that are willing to accept these applicants and give them a chance, secure in the knowledge the program has parameters set up to keep the businesses’ best interests in mind. For example, drug/alcohol addicts submit to random testing AND they go to rehab meetings. Non negotiable. Work performance is evaluated, and the company can alert the NP to any concerns. Failure to work within the guidelines given by the non-profit means you’re out of the program. That’s it.

      But mainly, I think people just have to come forward with their stories. When I told my husband I was nervous about this post, he told me “Look at Martha Stewart. Everyone knew what she did, she handled herself with class, and no one bats an eye.” And that’s it. Very few people come forward to reveal they have records, instead deciding to sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened, just adding to the stigma that good people don’t do bad things.

      Just because my mistakes come with paperwork, doesn’t change who I am as a person.

  12. I don’t have much to contribute to this conversation, but I want to thank Ang for writing this, for being so honest, and for standing up for yourself and what is right. I also want to thank Lauren for running this post. I used to work on prisoner reintegration issues and know that the issues you’ve raised are deeply, deeply important. It’s people like you, Ang, who will change the way the world views people with records. I also want to wish you so much luck both in your business and as you venture into the non-profit world. I don’t know where you’re based, but if you ever need a Chicago lawyer to donate some time or resources, give me a holler.

  13. wow Ang, this was an amazing post, thanks so much for sharing.

    I think it’s awful the way that so many avenues are closed off from people who are convicted of offences. I mean, the idea of a person performing a sentence is that afterwards, your “debt to society” is paid. Really, considering the flow-on effects it’s had on you, it’s easy to see why other people, who have less support, self belief, or often mental health problems or other issues, get drawn into committing more offences.

    I really think the tough on crime rhetoric and fear-mongering about crime from governments everywhere (we have it here in Australia too) is so unhelpful. Surely one of the main goals of any justice system is to prevent crime and reduce re-offending, and nothing the system does really helps that. I actually did a whole criminology course at law school which looked at a lot of these issues. I work in legal policy now for my state government, and boy can it be depressing to work on a lot of this stuff up close, ugh.

    I think your non-profit idea sounds like a brilliant idea, and so worthwhile, I really hope it all comes together for you.

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