NROP: Should we be held responsible for our transgressions?

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Just last month, I wrote a post about prison labor. Apparently, some prisoners in China were working for a private company to produce Christmas cards that would later be sold in England. One of the workers managed to sneak in a note inside a card, which was later discovered by a British girl. What is so potentially controversial is that it seems that prisoners are forced to work while serving their sentences. I am not sure what kind of compensation they received (if any) while working on those cards. The message on the card asked that whoever found it get in touch with human rights groups.

In the comment section in my December’s post, some of you spoke against forced labor, while others thought it was a good way to rehabilitate inmates. What we all agreed on was intolerance of abuse. After all, prisoners are humans, too. We are not excused from treating others badly just because they committed a crime. If you were wondering if there was a continuation to the prison-tainted Christmas cards story, then keep reading.

Once the whole world heard about the note in a card bought from Tesco, multiple ex-prisoners came forward to speak their truth. Leo claims that he spent three years packaging sticky notes, face masks, gift bags, and labels. If he were to refuse, he would be punished by being banned from making phone calls home. On top of that, he would not be eligible to get his prison sentence reduced. To me, that does not sound like a terribly demanding job. And should any prisoner just be able to get their sentence commuted because of their right to freedom? I thought the reduction in the length of your sentence is obtained mostly through good behavior. As far as I know, simply not committing any new crimes while you are in prison is not sufficient.

Other former prisoners confirmed Leo’s version of the story. They said that if someone did not want to work, they would be tortured. Moreover, they complained about being deprived of “so many things” if they chose not to work. I do not want to work, either, yet somehow I arrive at my desk every single morning five days a week. If I refused, I would be tortured by my landlord who would throw me out on the street, by the electric company who would cut my power, and by restaurants by not providing me with food. Life just is not fair. Do you agree?

These poor prisoners had to work five to six hours a day. Supposedly, they only earned about 3.5 pounds a month. Now, I agree that it is not fair. I definitely could not live off of that. But what do these prisoners have to spend their money on? Everything that I have to pay for (housing, utilities, food), they get for free. Leo goes on to say: “Nobody wants to do this kind of work. Some people want to learn new things.” To me, that is degrading and disrespectful towards the honest people that perform those tasks on their own “free will.” Yes, I would rather do something else than what I do Monday through Friday, but I still do it. Not many people want to work in the waste industry, but someone has to do that. It is a job like any other.

It turns out that it was Leo, half a year ago, who wrote that note found in a Christmas card last December (according to The Guardian). He is now out of prison but is glad to hear that his message made it out and that it might help others still imprisoned. Oddly enough, another source names the author of the message on the card as Antoine. Tesco suspended the Chinese supplier due to the “forced labor” performed by prisoners. They launched an investigation into their practices.

Today, I bring to you another prison story. This time, straight from the U.S. Even though the general premise is similar to the one above – working prisoners working, it is a very different story. The article I read is about a woman who has to work to pay off her debt. Ridiculous, right? No one should ever have to do that. I say that as I look at my credit card statement. The ideas people get… I swear…

Back to the story. The woman works at a fast-food restaurant and lives in a restitution center. She shares a room with seven other women in a building converted from a motel. Why does she have to do it? She embezzled $13,000 a decade ago. She has been paying her way out by earning minimum wage. Aside from paying for her crime, this woman also has to pay for “room and board,” which takes the burden off of taxpayers. While the Chinese prisoners were forced to work, people at the restitution center do not have to do anything. The caveat is that they accrue more debts by staying there (“rent”).

You must be curious about how this woman came to be at the restitution center. Well, one day, while at work, she saw her car being repossessed by the dealership. What that means is that she was driving a car and not making the payments to which she agreed when she bought the car. Many people live paycheck-to-paycheck. I understand that. But when are people going to start making logical decisions? If you are struggling financially, think about getting a used car instead of the newest TRUCK model. How did this woman react? She created fake loans where she worked and basically stole thousands of dollars from her employer. This woman was also known for writing bad checks and stealing.

She got seven years in prison for embezzling. The judge was merciful and cut that down to five years of probation if she would pay $200/ month to pay back what she owed, plus $50 to the state for monitoring her. Because she fell behind on the payments, she decided to stop reporting to her correctional officer. That was a violation of her probation and it landed her in jail. It was then that she was ordered to the restitution center.

There is more. Dressed in a Nike T-shirt, one day, after being dropped off at work, the woman asked her co-worker to drive her downtown. There, she bought a bus ticket and went home. Needless to say, this woman’s former employer was unable to recover his stolen money. The woman ended up being apprehended and serving a prison sentence. Her time in prison was shorter than the time she would have to spend in the restitution center.

Mississippi is the only state in which the judge is able to lock you up for an unspecified time until you pay your court-ordered debt. The article claims that half of the people at the center have a debt of less than $3,515. The lowest debt is $656.50. The average time spent in the restitution center is four months, although some stay there even up to five years. Who goes there? People that owe money. One woman spent nine months there paying off $5,000 for wrecking her friend’s car. She complained that during her stay she struggled with depression and alcohol withdrawal. There was no one there to help her. I do not know if she still struggles with alcoholism now, but it seems to me that nine months in a mock prison should have helped beat it. Some people complained that the restitution centers do not help with getting a high school diploma. Why do we always demand, demand, demand? All we do is take, take, take. Do we give as much?

The good thing is that the restitution center assists people in finding jobs. On top of that, you do not go to prison. That should be something people should be grateful for. By finding them jobs, the system helps them prepare for the real world. It teaches them useful skills that can be applied in the future to lead a successful life. It almost seems that going to prison is easier than paying off debt. In the latter example, you actually have to work for what you did. Think of what you would do if someone stole $13,000 from you. Would you prefer them to go to prison for a few months, or have them repay you? There is no doubt in my mind that the second option would be better for me and more productive for society. The problem is that we seem to choose the easy way out. If there is no punishment, how will we ever stop crime?

How much do you think a prisoner should be paid?

What do you think is the best way to reform prisoners?

Stay golden,

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72 thoughts on “NROP: Should we be held responsible for our transgressions?

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  1. I don’t know. My emotional instinct is to punish everyone who breaks the law because it’s just so damn unfair that the rest of us have to work so hard. I don’t give a crap about their whining re prison problems as long as they aren’t physically abused. But then again… who pays for all the prisons and guards and yada? We do. And if we don’t make an effort to help criminals get motivated to live decent lives, they’ll just end up back there again. On our dime. Ughhh!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I am not a mindless sheep and I don’t think all authority is right, etc. However, I believe that with no rules, there WOULD be mayhem. I think the less severe the punishment, the smaller the remorse. Of course, if you over-do it you run the risk of breaking someone and making them even worse than they were before. But what does letting them loose do? It tells them that whatever they did was alright.

      Yes, we pay for their stay in prison, which is why I actually think the restitution centers are a good idea. It takes the burden off us, teaches the criminal honest work, and everyone should be happy.

      Sometimes there is just no changing people’s mentality. Even if you gave some people everything, they would still find a need to do something wrong.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I got the official boot today so let us brainstorm about how I can commit a crime without hurting someone 😉

    We think we have freedom, but honestly we don’t. We live in a world whete Big Bro is watching you and using one too much toilet paper can be reason enough to be kicked out

    Liked by 4 people

      1. There you go. I thought about it, too. I would finally be able to just write all day! And if I got tired of it, I’d punch someone in the face and get locked in solitary confinement so I wouldn’t have to deal with annoying people.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. As you know, my grandpa was in prison twice. He never got paid, that’s for sure.
          I honestly would be fine to be in solitary for 8 hours a day. Just give me my books and a laptop to do some writing. I’d be more than happy!

          Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry to hear that, Andrea. But I do hope that as this door closes, another one opens. And that it will be a brighter chapter for you.

      Hmm… it would have to be a white collar crime. Add 7 zeros to the price of your doodle items. Maybe no one will notice? JOKING. I condone no crime.

      Big Brother is so real. People are watching. There are cameras watching your EVERY move when you’re out on the street.


      1. Well, they told me they are searching for someone else and I was going to be needed once every two months or so.
        Before they could fire me, I said that I quit, just to save a little bit of my dignity.

        I know that the radar was on me since Feb. 2019 and I felt that everyone was spying on me. It was very uncomfortable.
        At least I don’t have that anymore.
        And also I don’t have to worry for the trip to the UK with that perv colleague!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. We seem to have a hard time these days distinguishing who the victims are these days. Mercy is a good thing, but some “mercy” for the person who got ripped off is way overdue.
    I befriended a homeless woman who didn’t want to go to a shelter, because the shelters were allegedly dangerous for women. But she had been sleeping outside, and there was still a few months of winter ahead. More than once it crossed my mind to suggest she shoplift something small, get caught, and get herself 90 days of free room, board, and protection in the local jail. I kept the thought to myself, but it was tempting …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You make a great point, which is the base for all of the rest in this debate. It’s a fight between good and evil. Being good doesn’t pay. Why do we think evil should be treated with goodness? … As I wrote this sentence, I kind of saw the light… We do need to show goodness to the evil but not in a way that would encourage them to keep sinning.

      Aren’t the streets dangerous for a woman, too? I lived in a community which many addicts called home. They refused to go to shelters during winter because they refused to give up their bolt and chain. They didn’t like curfew, either. It always made me wonder. What would I do? I think I’d give up some freedom just to have a bed and a roof.

      It’s very sad how this woman, you describe, might be better of in jail…

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Back in the old days, people would be punished for a crime they committed by going to prison. Prison was a punishment, a curtailing of freedom. It acted as a deterrent to committing crime again, because conditions inside were such that the perpetrator wouldn’t want to go back there. Nowadays prison is like a holiday camp. Sentences are short and life inside (at least in the UK) is very comfortable. Prisoners can earn money, watch TV, play video games, socialise, exercise, eat good food, study if they want to and take as many drugs as they like. Prison is a short break from everyday life for the criminals, where they can relax for a while before being released to commit some more crimes. I may be in the minority here, but I don’t believe that people who commit crimes should be rewarded by earning money in prison. I think prison should go back to being a deterrent to committing crimes…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I first read the article, I thought the Hammurabi code. The woman’s employer lost his money, while she got to become famous and dare to complain about having to work to pay the money back.

      I agree with your outlook. I am horrified by what’s happening with the whole leniency thing. After the last post, I was a little worried about posting this one. I definitely shared a lot of opinions which might not be PC.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The best way to reform prisoners? I’m not sure, but I know most leave prison in worse shape than when they went in. I guess if we stop treating them as animals to maintain order, they will act like humans during and after their stay.

    Wages – they are getting free room and board, so low wages are appropriate.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Tough one. But I am of the belief that when you do something wrong, you are responsible for it. I like the idea of the restitution house, however, I think they are still getting off way to easy. Society has mad it way to easy for people NOT to take responsibility for their own actions. They claim they are victim of this or that, and people feel sorry for them, which only enables them to continue down this path. Enough! People need to start taking personal responsibility again, and it is our job to enforce that personal responsibility. I believe in the old saying ” you commit the crime, you do the time”.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. “Society has mad it way to easy for people NOT to take responsibility for their own actions.” Precisely.

      It starts with kids at home. I think children have much more freedom nowadays than they did a few decades ago. It just goes downhill from there.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Truthfully, this terrifies me. It’s not that I don’t want the world to be a kind and happy place. No, I do not get off to people being punished and suffering. However, I do not believe in Idylla. Humans will not live in perfect balance and harmony.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. In my opinion, every prisoner should pay off the debt or participate in any kind of action which could help to recompensate or create something good for people who suffered due to the committed crime. It’s funny that prisoners demand being treated fair while they’ve been not playing fair when breaking the law. The prison should not be the easy way out. It should not be a hotel. No reform of prisoners is possible without making them pay for what they’ve done or recompensate the victim. As I mentioned in my other comment, I’m totally against any abuse of the human rights of prisoners for the sake of gaining profits. But at the same time, someone rightly said that work ennobles man. We learn through acting, not just sitting in a cell.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great point. They do things without thinking of how it might affect others, yet raise hell when something other people do affects them. A prime example of selfishness.

      Maybe if I had everything handed to me and not have to worry about things, then I wouldn’t mind others not working for it, either.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi, Goldie.
    The only reason I’m responding is because I admire your other work and I suspect you were just a tad grumpy when you wrote this. Be as politically incorrect as you like (it’s a lifetime habit for me was well) but there are a number of assumptions and comparisons in what you have written that would bear further thought.
    1. The Tesco cards issue was more about a private company using prison labour for profit and not being upfront about it.
    2. Being required to work while in prison is justifiable, as is loss of privileges if you don’t. Torture is a whole other level and equating your loss of income if you don’t work with the use of torture is unbecoming of you.
    3. Your example of the embezzling lady and the results of her impulsiveness speaks to the complexity of human behaviour and motivation, including the impulsiveness associated with people who have never achieved a reasonable level of maturity, whether through their upbringing or mental illness. None of that excuses behaviour or dodging of responsibility but it means that preventing it happening again is a hellishly difficult challenge that imprisonment is unlikely to resolve.
    4. Believing that enforced absence from alcohol while in prison is a cure for alcoholism when it’s not accompanied by skilled intervention flies in the face of all the evidence.
    5. Education and skills development is the most effective strategy in diverting offenders into a more useful and productive life after prison.
    6. Punishment for its own sake has never worked as a deterrent to crime and never will.
    7. When the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world despite an overall decrease in the crime rate, it’s at least worth thinking about why that might be. This article might give you some ideas.

    As H L Mencken once said “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

    Take care and keep writing what you think,

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Doug for joining the discussion, sharing your thoughts, and most of all for giving me the chance to explain myself.

      1. I’m aware and I actually wrote precisely that in the earlier post. I totally agree that a private company should not profit off free labor from ANYONE (prisoner or not). However, testimonials from former presidents made me take things a step farther. To me, they complained about having to work vs. sitting around and not doing anything. That’s what I have an issue with.
      2. I think you might have misunderstood me there. An ex prisoner complained about being deprived of “so many things.” That’s what I was relating to when talking about things I would be deprived of if I stopped working. The reason why I used the word “torture” in that sentence was not to minimize any potential “real” torture some of those people might (not confirmed) have gone through. Torture is arbitrary. Yes, we can all agree that waterboarding and driving nails under your nails is not fun, but torture can also be less invasive. Some people are “tortured” by nightmares. Would you not agree? Isn’t hunger (which I mentioned) torturous, too? Again, this was not to minimize torture, but to put things in perspective and to shine the light on both sides of the scale.
      3. I respectfully disagree with the ending words. There are people who came out of prison totally changed. For them, the system did what it was supposed to do. However, you are right in the sense that prison doesn’t fix everyone. Sometimes, it makes things worse. It’s like with anything else. Sometimes you ask someone to do something and they do it immediately. Someone else will take a week to do it, but they will complete it as well. Other people never will, no matter how many times you remind them. Nagging might make them run faster, or give in and actually do it. Yes, there’s room for improvement. However, I prefer something that works some of the time vs. doing nothing. Not imprisoning the woman and not having her pay the money back sends the wrong message. She will just keep doing what she was doing. Do I hand her all of my money to prevent that from happening? Now how would that be fair to all the other people who are struggling by making the best decisions they can? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.
      4. The problem definitely isn’t an easy one. I’m not saying that abstinence is something that will magically fix the problem. Of course the underlying reasons should be looked at. However, I believe that prison gives you two things that you might not have available in the outside world. What do you think would have to happen for this woman to abstain from drinking in the outside world? Not being able to obtain alcohol in prison is one less temptation. The access she would have to it outside is far greater, posing a bigger risk for her. Locking her up might have taken her out of an environment that was “making her” drink. Another plus. Giving her time and space to think about things is another. There are all sorts of groups and clubs in prison. She could join one of those. Or create one herself. There’s a counselor, too. Is that an ideal setting? No, but I believe it’s a good start. When you throw someone a lifeline they will either do their best to catch it, or they will choose to keep drowning. Sad, but true.
      5. I can’t argue with you there. But to DEMAND education that you chose to forego as a free citizen? And to demand SPECIFIC skills? That’s going a little bit over the top. Theoretically speaking, we should all be granted access to education and skill development. To a degree, we are. But not all the way.
      6. I disagree with that. It has and it does. Again, not 100% of the time, but it’s better than 0% of the time.
      7. I think some sort of a typo crept into your no.7. Did you mean to say that we have high incarceration and low crime rate? If so, then, you just proved my point. If it was a typo and you were trying to argue the opposite, then I can show you data regarding crime around the world. US is not the worst.

      Agreed. This isn’t black and white. I don’t have a ready answer. However, I do speak up with I see people trying to take advantage of others. I speak up when I see overwhelmingly unfair things happening.

      Again, thanks for stopping by and all your input, Doug.
      Stay golden!


      1. Hi, Goldie. Happy to agree to disagree on some issues but there was no typo in No. 7. My point was that despite having the highest incarceration rate in the world, the US crime rate is falling (despite the persistent public belief that it isn’t). You seem to believe that the first has caused the second. If that were the case, countries like Canada and Australia that have one fifth of the prisoners per capita compared to the US would be lawless and terrifying places to live, which of course they are not. As always, the answers are complex and elusive.
        I know you began this discussion questioning whether people should have to work while they are locked up. Part of the answer to that question involves asking what are they being locked up for in the first place.


  9. How much do you think a prisoner should be paid?

    It should depend on what they do for work. I don’t know whether or not they should be paid a specific amount or even have to adhere to minimum wage laws. I do think they should be paid, but simply haven’t thought much about attaching any number to it. I do think the majority, if not all, of whatever they “earn” in prison should first go to pay off any restitution ordered against them.

    What do you think is the best way to reform prisoners?

    I don’t think there is a one-size fits all model. Just like there’s no one best way to parent children. While a similar approach may be “best”, people respond to, and are motivated by, different things. Removing freedoms is effective, and in some cases necessary for safety’s sake, and for some prisoners, just having to survive going to prison at all causes them to reform. I think education (including learning a trade, not just mental gymnastics) would work for some. I think other folks would respond to counseling. It’s got to be a multi-pronged solution.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I think considering the circumstances, that they’re at the mercy of taxpayer funds, and they do have basic human rights… they should be working. From my understanding, prisoners are tasked with general tasks. Like laundry. Kitchen. It helps keep costs down. Unless a person is incapable of performing any job, they should be contributing somehow.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Crime and punishment….

    Hmmmm without the threat of punishment and or consequences I guess society would quickly devolve into a state of anarchy, for all our ideals we are ungovernable sheep.

    Unfortunately the system is run by those bent on manipulating it for seemingly benevolent reasons while driven by ulterior motives possibly greed.

    In the end you have a situation where it seems like:

    If you want to go to jail steal a loaf of bread from the supermarket… If you don’t want to go to jail steal $15 billion from the tax payers


    Liked by 2 people

    1. I wanted to make “Crime and punishment” the title of the post, but thought it was too short. I went with the question to try to make my title more successful per title-related research.

      That’s true. Sometimes larger crimes are neglected and smaller severely punished.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Crime and punishment kinda rolls of the keyboard…. Isn’t there some classic literature book with a title like that War and Peace, pride and prejudice, sense and sensibility

        A tale of two justice systems


        Liked by 1 person

  12. If you are given the choice between working for things, and being granted them for free, who in their right mind chooses the former? We are, unfortunately, largely selfish beings — especially those of us who know only what it is to be given everything.

    Which is why I totally think more states should take after Mississippi. I know myself (to a degree): if I can weasel out of something, I will. And I can weasel out of most things. But I also know that I shouldn’t be allowed to, and even though I would doubtless still kick and scream and rage against, I think to be called out honestly and judged fairly (*fairly* — not “as I would prefer,” which is what some seem to take for the word’s meaning) would ultimately be for the best — for me, as well as many others.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s true. But there’s another caveat. Appreciation isn’t really a thing anymore. It’s the fleeting emotions that are important. I got what I want, therefore I am happy. With all sorts of participation prizes, the value of appreciation depreciates.

        Liked by 2 people

  13. There are so many views you could take on this. In my world and here in the province we tend to make the same mistake and allow people who should be locked up to just walk freely after serving such a short sentence. One day I was at the clinic and saw a guy on the walkway smoking, when I looked closely, he was someone who had killed someone not long before that. I remember thinking, ‘wait, isn’t that the guy who?’ and was like how in the world is he allowed to be just 5 feet away from me? Why is he out of jail? Our penitentiary here is like a cage full of dogs who for whatever reason has a revolving door for degenerates. Being a Paralegal and dealing with criminals in the past, I got to ;learn some of their mentalities and its just they don;t care and they know the government will keep them,s o let’s go rob someone, better yet kill someone. Mind boggling. Best way to reform? Well here, how about actually punishing them first and then see.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Entitlement is ugly no matter what. I think prisoners should be required to do some type of work and be treated humanely. I worked with the homeless population for a bit and they would try to get out of doing chores at the shelter. Fact is, life is tough and like you said, we all have to do things we don’t want to do. It is human nature to gripe and complain and to play the victim. I appreciate the programs out there they try to help “restore” peoples lives. A little gratitude goes a long way.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Unfortunately many times the punishment is not adequate for the transgression in both ways. there are many issues with prisons all over the world, including the US. Especially those run by private companies

    Liked by 3 people

  16. While many don’t think that giving prisoners a “second chance” is the way to go, I personally do think that for the betterment of society and to continue to belief that everyone is capable of good, it’s best to offer them opportunities while detained (with surveillance at least) to learn from their mistakes, to learn about their potential, to prove themselves that there are alternatives. However, we’re still at a stage where the law and the punishments aren’t adequate at times, and it’s probably worse for people invested in fraudulent activities since prison sentences for them are usually incomprehensible. Every “punishment” should be adapted to the case figure in the end.

    Liked by 1 person

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Cathleen Townsend

Faerie Tales and Fantasy Worlds


writing science-fiction and fantasy since tomorrow

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