While there is no excuse for breaking the law, we can’t automatically fault petty criminals for the path they’ve chosen to take. Often, people, especially young ones, commit a criminal offense because they lacked guidance from their families. This issue is the root cause of their behavior. Had they been in a nurturing and supportive environment, they would’ve become responsible and law-abiding citizens.
Lack of guidance also makes ex-prisoners more likely to re-offend. Studies show that as many as 83% of released prisoners are rearrested within a decade. Such a high recidivism rate is clearly bad for our society. Perhaps you think we need stricter laws and harsher punishments to stop rearrests, but history has proven again and again that those measures don’t help.
Getting in and out of prison is also detrimental to criminals trapped in a cycle of bad decisions and dire consequences. If you have a loved one who has been arrested once, you’d know that they can re-offend if they associate with the wrong people or take a dark path again. If they’re currently awaiting trial, you must be dealing with many emotional challenges and worrying about their well-being once they get released.
Hence, here are the ways to help them change their lives for the better:
1. Find Out if Their Crime is a Bailable Offense
A bailable offense refers to a crime in which the offender can remain free while awaiting trial. If that is the type of crime committed by your loved one, you can secure their release through bail bonds. An offender’s bail bond is an agreement to appear for trial or pay an amount set by the court.
You’d find out if the crime they committed is bailable or not during a bail hearing. If it’s a bailable crime, the amount of money to be demanded is at the judge’s discretion. The judge may also deny bail or set a very high amount if the crime committed is violent or the offender is likely to flee.
Once the bail amount is set, the offender can either stay in prison until their trial, arrange for a bail bond, or pay the bail amount in full until their case is resolved. Arranging for a bail bond is a good option if you can ensure that the offender won’t flee before their trial starts and if you can find a reputable bond dealer.
2. Help them Find a Stable Job and a Just Employer
Once set free, help your loved one get back to society through employment. With something productive to use their time with, ex-offenders can stay away from the temptations of re-offending. However, getting a job tends to be difficult for ex-offenders. Their potential employers might ask for their criminal history and refuse to hire them if they saw their criminal record.
Thankfully, this practice has been made illegal in some states, including Utah and Nevada. Though, of course, background checks will still be done. If your loved one can promise that they’d try clearing their records and names, they might have a good shot at becoming a redeemed member of society. So support their decision to improve their lives, but don’t be easy on them if they show signs of relapsing.
3. Address Their Mental Health Problems
Petty criminals often deal with poor mental health, which urges them to commit an offense. The thrill they get from doing something illegal can fill a void they’re suffering from. Of course, the “high” they get from offending is just short-lived, so they’d do it again and again.
This void only gets deeper when they face rejection from society. The hostile treatment they’d receive can worsen their depression and thus trigger a relapse.
For those reasons, it’s crucial to address the mental health problems of an ex-offender. Maybe they experienced a traumatic event in the past or have been through severe peer pressure. Whatever the case, don’t tolerate society’s rejection toward ex-offenders and raise awareness about the mental health issues plaguing petty criminals. By openly talking about this, you can help your loved one be more willing to seek professional help.
4. Set Boundaries
If rejecting an ex-offender doesn’t help, then so is coddling them. It may do worse, in fact. While it’s normal for someone who just got out of prison to act detached and angry, it’s not okay to let them vent out their negative emotions on you.
Set boundaries for the sake of both your well-being. If you get frustrated by their attitude, communicate it with them. Make it clear that you won’t tolerate violent displays of anger and a desire to get back to unsafe habits. While at it, remind them to be easy on themselves as well. Changing their lives won’t be easy, and they might find themselves tempted to re-offend once in a while. But with your support and belief in them, they’ll overcome the darkness within themselves and choose the right path this time around.