I’ll admit I had a very visceral reaction when I first read an excerpt in The New York Times from Ivy-league educated Piper Kerman’s upcoming book on her year in federal prison. It wasn’t helped when an essay by her husband Larry Smith ran in another section of the Times the very next week. In fact, I immediately registered my displeasure by firing off a letter to the newspaper, which was published yesterday. I took the Times to task for, among other things, perpetuating the idea that some offenders are more equal than others, and that Kerman’s elevated status somehow made her special, when most ex-offenders would never even get their voices heard let alone a book deal.
Then, it being Easter week and all, I went on to write an essay about whether ex-offenders can redeem themselves.
Seeing the disconnect yet? It took me awhile too. But then I was reminded of an earlier post in this very blog where I talked about Michael Vick. There was a lot of furor when the football star finished his sentence for illegal dog fighting and immediately got a $10 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. My take at the time: get over it.
I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of former felons who are equally if not more deserving than Vick. It’s just that a superstar jock is going to get the better deal, criminal record or no. That’s our society. It stinks. It’s unfair. Then again, so is the fact that teachers are poorly paid, while the bankers who helped ruin our economy still appear to rule the world — but don’t get me started. Perhaps some day all these things will change. Right now you need to focus on your situation and how to bring about the best things for yourself going forward.
That in turn got me to thinking. This blog is about starting over and helping ex-offenders. If you believe – as I profess to – that once offenders have served their time and paid their debt to society they deserve a second chance, then that should be true whether the person has had every advantage or none at all. Her background aside, Kerman’s experience locked up has no doubt given her insights that might be beneficial to readers of this blog. She also might be able to reach people who would normally tune out. So early last week I reached out to her to see if she would agree to an interview.
Hopefully, I’m not drinking the publicity kool aid. But keep an eye on this space and we’ll see. And let me know your thoughts. Are privileged offenders less deserving of second chances? Is their debt to society different?