Note: The following post has absolutely nothing to do with IP. I wrote it early Tuesday morning while listening to sports talk radio, as I do every morning. I then held it until today, and delayed its publication until after working hours Wednesday evening. I did this because the tone, style and content of this post is well out of line with the rest of this site. However, this is an opinion that I wanted to share. (You know what they say about opinions …) If you only come here to read about IP related issues, then feel free to skip this post and move on to the next one. You’ve been warned.
This morning I’m listening to every sports DJ in the country fawn all over Michael Vick. The fawning is understandable, as Vick did have one of the legendary performances in the history of the league, at least during prime-time television. Those same DJs are supposedly taking some heat for being so positive about an ex-convict, but I’m not going to add to the fire. I can’t help but think every CDL in the country would love to see each and every one of their convicted clients get the same treatment after their sentence is carried out.
Vick has a genuine opportunity here. You see, Vick may not even be qualified to work at Wal-Mart, much less teach second graders, drive a school bus, or sell insurance. Law school, med school, or even nursing school are probably out of the question too. (To be honest, when the news originally broke, I probably wouldn’t have hired Vick to clean my gutters.) But Vick, owing in no small part to his supreme athletic skills, can play professional football. As he proved last night, he can play at an exceptionally high level. Because of his unique talent, he’s been given a second chance to work at an economic level far above the entry-level jobs that are denied to ex –cons. If Vick can be reformed, and can execute a job as physically and mentally challenging as being an NFL quarterback, then certainly other ex-convicts can do the same, at jobs similar to those they had prior to their convictions.
And on the subject, why is there such a stigma against ex-convicts in the first place? Most likely, it’s because we (the “law abiding”) tend to view these folks as criminals, and simply expect them to break the law again. But, attributing behavioral attributes to an entire class of citizens is illogical. Does every ex-husband periodically visit his ex-wife expecting her to put out? No? I thought once a wife, always a …. You get the point. Recidivism may be high (or it may not, I’m hardly an expert), but it’s not 100%. We sentence crimes to a finite period of time for a reason, and not every crime should carry lifelong consequences. And I do often wonder if recidivism would be lower if it was easier for ex-convicts to find good jobs and put their lives back together. Vick’s opportunity was more or less given to him because of his abilities, and so far he hasn’t squandered it. (If he does, I’ll look incredibly stupid and no doubt eat some crow, but I don’t care). There are others, I’m sure, more than willing to work for their second chance if someone’s willing to give them a reasonable shot.
The point? Don’t really have one. This is not a call to action, and I am not an activist. I’m not going to ask you to write a letter, or hire a convict. I’m not going to call Vick out publicly and ask him to record a PSA or work with organizations that help ex-convicts find decent jobs. But I do hope a lot of that will happen. I do hope that Vick will recognize the opportunity he has to educate us all on how people (yes, ex-convicts are people) can often surprise you. I do hope that others will use his example to educate us all. I’m not saying we all deserve a second chance. I’m saying we all deserve an opportunity to earn a second chance.