The Stain that never goes away, what does this phrase mean to you? I am pretty sure at first glance most people would assume I am talking about that pesky mustard stain that ruins your favorite shirt or the horrible red stain that ruins a perfect crème rug. However, the stain I am talking about is much more important but doesn’t get nearly as much attention as the superficial previously mentioned stains. I am talking about the stain of a felony on the life of a youth (a person under 18) that is charged as an adult.
According to the Just Kids Report, each year Maryland charges 1,250 youth as adults with little concern or attention to the stain this places on the life of a young person. Youth charged as adults are forced to carry the burden of a felony for the rest of their lives. This often places a young person in the category of being unable to change or unwilling to change. However, if the truth be told, a felony places youth in the category of being prevented from changing.
Felonies prevent youth from receiving access to higher education by making them ineligible for Pell grants, certain federal and school loans, and scholarship. But most unfortunate is that a felony is enough of a stain to prevent youth from being accepted into college. Felonies prevent youth from entering the military and many other careers because of not being able to pass a background check. How then can youth truly enhance their lives and propel themselves out of their circumstances if felonies prevent them from accessing education, employment and connection to resources?
At Hand in Hand we believe that youth can and want to change their lives and we partner with them to create that change. We partner with our youth to find employers that are willing to hire them, we place them back into educational programs and we match them with mentors who partner with them as they try to alleviate the weight of living under the shroud of a felony. Our young men are thriving! None of our young men have been reconvicted, all of our young men are in educational programs, and many of our young men are employed. In April we will take our young men to New York. For 80% of our students it will be their first time leaving Baltimore! Our young men have been given another chance and are enhancing their communities.
So the next time that you make the mistake of spilling a drink or condiment on your blouse, imagine if you had to walk around with that stain/mistake for the rest of your life. Think about the young people who are forced to walk around with the stain of their mistakes for the rest of lives. Would you throw away that shirt or would you try to get the stain out of your shirt? Let’s not throw away any more of our youth. Let’s partner with them as they try to get the stain out of their lives.