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Recidivism: The Ambiguity of Flawed Policies


Recidivism: The Ambiguity of Flawed Policies

A very near and dear friend of mine suffered “an injustice…!” due to an ambiguous policy regarding ex-felonies/prisoners possessing firearms while on probation or parole supervision.

             My friend, Reuben R., was violated and sent back to prison for having a “paintball” gun in his car trunk, after being pulled over and searched by the officer on what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop.

             Because he -- Reuben -- didn’t know what the word assimilation meant in the policy governing an ex-felon/prisoner possessing a firearm upon release from incarceration, he went to a facility that for recreational purposes allowed him to let off some pent-up stress by playing a game of paintball.

             I witness -- firsthand -- sitting in the front, passenger side, the surprise on Rueben’s face when the officer asked him to step out of his vehicle and placed him in handcuffs.

The second officer found the paintball rifle in the trunk of Reuben’s car.

             At that very moment, when the second officer asked Reuben if the rifle he was holding up for everyone to see was in fact his…? Reuben answered, confidently: “YES” which point, Reuben was taken into custody and carted off to the local jail for booking and fingerprinting. 

             I was horrified by the actions taken against my beloved friend, Reuben. Because of the officer’s loose interpretation of the policy regarding ex-felons possessing guns, Reuben had to go back to lockup for the next 60 months.

             And I couldn’t stop shaking while thinking to myself, how different my treatment by those same officers, had it been me instead of my Hispanic brother, Reuben R.

It’s so weird how things can turn on a dime in a nano-second.

             Prior to the incident, we were just happy to be gracing each other’s company, with good humor and cheer…then, the “unthinkable” happened…Reuben was gone…back behind bars, and never afforded the opportunity to experience freedom ever again…WHY…because my friend was stabbed to death while doing those 5 extra years, over an apparent debt of a bag of coffee.

Painting by Gwynne Duncan 

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