For those of you offering positive feedback, and even for those of you who have disagreed or asked me questions but did so as one human talking to another – thank you. For the rest of you, well, maybe I would have been open to a conversation with you if you hadn’t started off with insults. One can disagree without being rude. And for a very small percentage of you who took “rude” to an extra special place, and whom I would truly not waste the time to address, except that people have asked me what I am going to say to you….which is, “Troll much?”Where do we draw the line?
There already IS a line. There is already a team of people judging parents by their past, and already a set of guidelines they follow to do so. Many of the charges listed in the guidelines have exceptions if 5 or 10 years have passed, and I believe that is where people with histories of my nature (nonviolent offenders with no arrests in over a decade) also belong. Not on the list of offenders that are restricted from volunteering in their own child's classroom for the rest of their lives.
To be perfectly clear, I DO NOT PROPOSE THAT SEX OFFENDERS, RAPISTS, CHILD ABUSERS, OR ARMED ROBBERS BE PERMITTED TO VOLUNTEER AT SCHOOLS.Here is the thing…ALL of those offenses I listed in the sentence above are VIOLENT offenders. They are a different category of people than non-violent offenders. Quite honestly part of my decision to speak out was my frustration at being lumped into the same category. I do not belong on the same banishment list as a sex offender. That is nonsense.
I did not hold anyone at gun or knife point. I didn’t hurt, injure, maim, kill, or kidnap any children (or adults for that matter, I didn’t do these things to ANYone). I didn’t beat up anyone’s grandma or rape anyone or rob any stores or banks or people.
I am not saying that it was not a completely idiotic thing to do, because clearly I know now that it was, but I simply introduced two people to one another; one person with drugs and one person that wanted drugs (who was apparently being set up by an informant). I honestly had no idea that was a felony offense. I have heard many times over the years that a “decent” attorney (read: if I had money for a real attorney and not a 3rd string public defender at the time) could have gotten my charge reduced and I would have ended up found guilty of a different charge. Whether or not that would have happened, I may never know. And that’s ok, I guess. I accepted my small amount of participation as horrible a long time ago, and decided I can just try to be the best me that I can moving forward. You know? I just try not let it get me down or make me think that I should return to that lifestyle since that is what judgmental people expect of me anyway. Because ultimately who I am is not up to them, it is up to me.
I served a year in county jail (not prison, there IS a difference) and 3 years of probation.
It was the first and last time I have gotten in trouble, I think I cried for the whole first week in there (contrary to my own preconceived notion, nobody tried to beat me up or even give me a hard time for that, but I digress). I have had zero subsequent arrests since 2002.
Habitual offenders don’t go more than a decade between arrests. I am not one of those either.
I am not a bomber, a bank robber, or even a drug dealer.
I’m just a mom with an exuberant 6 year old girl who absolutely loves learning.
When I was arrested, I did NOT think about how this would affect my children (Sadly, I think it is pretty safe to say I wasn’t thinking much at all at the time). I did NOT think it would affect my ability to participate at my daughter’s school when she was born 6 years ago. I did not even think it would affect my ability to participate in her school LAST year, when she began pre-k and this very same county let me participate and help with the class. It was only this year, when she began kindergarten, it has become an issue.
The laws on what constitutes a felony and the laws governing when someone is forgiven for a felony vary widely from state to state. I would LOVE to expunge, seal, or pardon my record and in many other states that would have already been granted. I am working on that.
I am extremely grateful for all of the positive support. It is not easy to stand up and say I was this person when I was younger, but I feel like it is better to be open about it than to try and pretend it never happened. Some would probably prefer I beat myself up forever, but I can’t work towards a better future if I just sit around and focus on my past. What kind of example would that set for my kids?
I am extremely happy that this conversation has been started. I think it is important that the effects of laws against non-violent felons, the various difficulties they face trying to function as a productive member of society, and the challenges in having their rights restored are talked about, and not swept under the rug.
I feel this way even more strongly after hearing from so many parents, both locally and across the country, that are struggling with similar estrangement issues. Many with charges far less offensive than my own. It helps, knowing you’re there, and knowing that I’m not alone. I am overwhelmed by how much of the feedback continues to be positive, and I am grateful for the continued support. Thank you.