11/11/07 — Required listening: Conference for offenders might help — somewhat

View Archive

Required listening: Conference for offenders might help — somewhat

The idea is intriguing.

Instead of filling Wayne County’s jails and community service rolls with offenders involved with lesser offenses in the drug trade, perhaps trying to help them change their lives might be a better course.

At least, that is the theory behind a program that allows offenders to attend a gang and anti-drug conference sponsored by a group of people determined to change the course of Goldsboro’s criminal population.

The idea is to allow these men and women to hear from those who have been there and those who have changed their lives — and to hope that a few get the message.

So, Wayne County Superior Court Judge Jerry Braswell is allowing the volunteers with the “Stop the Funeral” campaign the chance to get a captive audience for their Corner 2 Corner Drug Dealer/Gang Member Redemption Conference.

Offenders can use the conference as part of their satisfaction of the punishment imposed by courts for their actions. It doesn’t give them a “get of jail free” card, but it gives them an alternative.

It is easy to want to be optimistic here.

How nice would it be if this conference — and hearing how others have broken free of the grip of crime and drugs — would change a few lives and give some of these men and women new direction and hope.

And maybe it will.

But for those who are a little cynical — and have been proven to be more right than wrong when it comes to this sort of transformation — the idea is a small portion of a solution to an always increasing problem.

By the time an offender has reached the court system, he or she has already established a pattern for his or her life. Breaking that cycle takes more than an afternoon or a day of listening to others tell their stories — although it is a good start.

To push these young offenders into a new life, you have to force them to discard the trappings of their old one. They have to be required to do more than nod their heads and promise to have seen the light.

They must get the education and skills they need to find and hold a job. They must complete rehabilitation to get themselves off drugs so they can keep that job.

If they are parents, they must be held accountable for that decision — and be required to complete the necessary training to make sure their children do not follow in their footsteps.

They must be required to pay for their crimes, not only by serving the time assigned to them, but by reimbursing their victims as well.

They must make a 90-degree turn toward a new beginning and a second chance and absolutely commit to making the changes necessary to stay on course.

The alternative sentencing program is a start — and the efforts of the volunteers who have put together the conference should not be underplayed.

But we should also realize that it is going to take a lot more time and commitment from all corners of the county to really see change — and a determination to do whatever it takes to get control of crime in Goldsboro and around Wayne County.

Published in Editorials on November 11, 2007 12:03 AM