Its a cliche to say it, but people make mistakes. Sometimes, they make multiple mistakes. In those cases, its generally felt that people deserve another chance. Perhaps they have to suffer some amount of punishment, but we dont want to make them live with a mistake their whole lives. It was, after all, a mistake, something we all make from time to time.

We all believe that on some level, repeating the same cliche, and yet its incredibly rare to see people actually advocate for second chances when it comes to criminal justice.

This is a little bizarre in that this is the area that most requires that need. Plenty of people make mistakes in their youth or out of desperation that require some amount of punishment, but that should be limited enough that the person can then find a way to return to normal life.

Consider the case of burglary. That can be a fairly serious mistake, and yet, it is often enough just that – a mistake in judgment, an act done on impulse, or a moment of desperation. For all that, the penalties can be extremely tough, even if the person only did this one time!

According to the Bruno Law Offices in Champaign, Illinois, the law can be incredibly tough on first time offenders here. Depending on what location was burgled, the penalty can be anywhere from two to five years (for the lowest level punishment) to up to fifteen years and up to $25,000 in fines. That level of punishment, for those who have made a mistake, is simply not reasonable.

This is all the more true when it isnt always clear how guilty the person being punished is. As the Bruno Law Offices point out elsewhere, the person accused has to be proved to be on the property without permission (often a little hazy), in a state of mind to know what they were doing (also questionable in many cases), and finally attempting to steal from that property.

Imagine a case of someone who was intoxicated and on the property of someone that they knew vaguely. Sometimes, that person might be picked up for burglary and have their lives ruined when they were in fact making no attempt to commit the crime they were accused of. As bad as it is not to grant second chances to those who are guilty, the fact that a relatively innocent person could face such strict punishments without the help of a good lawyer is even worse.

Im of the mind that we have to always treat crime and mistakes with as much compassion as possible, always trying to see the damage it will do to the guilty (or the one suspected of guilt) as much as what has already been done to others.

We live in a country built on the idea of second chances. Thats why we need to do more to make sure our system allows for those second chances for everyone, even those who make big mistakes.


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