Mark Wahlberg is in the news seeking a pardon. If you are as unfamiliar as I about who this man is, he is an actor and rapper. Perhaps more important is his involvement in Boys & Girls Club and his founding a youth organization that has donated a good deal of money to causes for youth. So why does he need a pardon? Because at 16 he was "high on drugs and alcohol -- assaulted a man while trying to steal two cases of alcohol and then punched another man in the face as he attempted to avoid the police" (cnn). He was tried as an adult.
I might not have taken note of this except I tutor a wonderful woman who is also being affected by her past. She had several strikes against her and ended up with a felony conviction. My association with this woman is exceptional. She is filled with life and her positive outlook is what I look forward to when I go to work. She has a son she raised very successfully. She is engaged to a professor and looks forward to obtaining her degree with honors. But she has a concern that once she obtains it she may not be able to work in her field because of her record.
It is easy to think of those with records as likely to continue to travel that path. Unfortunately, because of that sort of societal stigma, those who have records may be more likely to stumble again. When you can't find work and others look at you as a criminal, not worthy to work for them, it is easy to hold that impression of yourself.
The question we need to ask ourselves is this: Do we believe that people can change? If we believe that people don't change, then we need to accept that for ourselves and every mistake we make, accept that that is who we are. Accept that we can't change, learn, and move ahead. And if you truly accept that, put on a diaper; you will need it.
I hope that Mark gets his pardon. But further, I hope that we can start changing attitudes to make those who are coming out of prison feel welcomed back to society, included, and worth our time and trust. Especially when they show that they have made changes. And perhaps we can also change laws to make pardons (with proof of change) easier and faster to obtain.
Neither you nor I want to be looked at as if we need to wear diapers because we once needed to wear them. Neither should those who have "done their time" continue to have to do it once their sentence has been served.