It is one of the most classic scenes in film - almost as famous as the image of the young boy who adopts a young animal whose later death moves him further into “manhood” - the business owner taking an employee aside and firing him, throwing him out the door, lips pressed together in Puritanical contempt, as he says to him:
“I’m not firing you because you are a convict. I’m firing you because you lied to me, and didn’t tell me about it when I hired you.”
At which point our dismissed employee puts down his broom and walks out of the store, head down. In lots of movies, this is usually the point where he goes out and robs a bank.
If only he had the moral integrity to tell Mister Storekeeper about his rap sheet. All would have been well.
Even as a kid, long before I moved to a Right-to-Work state, that scene always struck me as being inherently unfair. I was never convinced that Cotton Mather’s Dry Goods would have welcomed this fellow with open arms, if the owner had been aware of the applicant’s criminal past.
Of such small things political activists are made.
But even beyond the confines of the small screen, we must face the reality that those who have prison time on their resumes may have a difficult time finding employment at the best of times. And the jobs that are open to them are not likely to lead to management.
We have one of the highest incarceration rates on the planet, and when you mix court-mandated early releases with what many see as a jobless recovery, you have to ask yourself what sort of situation we are creating for ourselves? How many folks may return to crime simply as a way to survive?
And with less help coming their way to ease into society again? It seems as though we have found a way to keep punishing men and women long after they have paid their debts to society.
If I had a criminal record, I’m not terribly sure I would tell a potential employer, myself.
Quote of the Day
As long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you otherwise might. - Marian Anderson