Letter to the Editor: The perils of using labels...

By LETTER TO THE EDITOR,

Dear Editor:

A recent encounter with a person bearing a negative label connected to his past, yet carried for the rest of his life, has sparked some reflection.

As a former probation officer of some 50 years ago, I had my first experiences around the burdens of having a criminal history.

Doors for reentry into the job market were often closed, frequently resulting in “ex-cons” finding refuge in the underground world of crime and elicit activity.

Living a “normal” life, post “paying the price” of incarceration, became a significant challenge for many.

Discarding the criminal label and starting anew became impossible for many.

As a retired Army psychologist and student of human behavior, I know that changing established patterns of behavior is not simple or easy.

And I also know from first-hand experience that change is possible.

My plea to all who judge and distance themselves from people in their community who are carrying a life-long criminal label, to rethink their exclusionary responses.

Consider creating connections with the person carrying a criminal label before excluding them, much like Jesus would do and did in the Bible.

Consider the value of forming a personal relationship with anyone, regardless of his or her having a negative label, and its opportunity for shared enrichment.

Our world can become a better place as well.

Nate Bender, PhD

Petal, MS