I’m John Polk a businessman, a writer, entrepreneur, devoted husband, father and…”branded” the felon.
I’m among one of many who has served time for a non-violent crime; a business deal gone bad with complications! As a result, I pled guilty, did my time or, as some say, paid my debt to society, and started my professional life all over again after release. I had in fact, enjoyed tremendous success before my legal problems began but all that was lost as soon as I became a ward of the penal system.
While I was caged, I did my utmost to keep myself as uplifted and positive as possible. I read constantly. I read motivational and inspirational material, spiritual to business books. I loved writers like Anthony Robbins and Wayne Dyer! During the years of my stay behind bars I had two goals. The first was to get through the system as psychologically and physically healthy as I could and the second was to rebuild and start growing my life again as soon as I was released. I worked hard not to fall into the trappings of prison life and permit that environment to defeat me.
I was also naïve. My thought was that once I served my time and once I’d successfully did parole, I would be, so to speak, debt free and back to living my life again as a family man and businessperson; I would pick up the pieces and reconstruct my life in a positive way.
What I didn’t realize was that the idea of paying one’s debt to society is a myth. That is, that in our society once a person has made a mistake or has been made a felon for even consensual non-victim crimes he or she is condemned to being the felon for the rest of his or her life. Indeed, they are branded…forever. Among many other depressions, this means that finding a good job or even renting a decent home or apartment for your family becomes all but an overwhelming if not impossible challenge. In many instances voting rights are never returned and the ex-inmate is forced to virtually spend a lifetime as…“the unforgiven.” Certainly this contributes greatly to the high number of Americans who have done time and who return to incarceration within a few months or years after release. I am more fortunate than many as I was raised in a middle class home, I am well educated and I have support from a few good friends. Countless ex-inmates simply do not have these advantages.
Because of my experiences, however, I have a vision. It is my goal to be intrinsic in making positive changes in the entire system that will permit the ex-inmate to eventually be fully freed from having his future encumbered by what amounts to a life sentence of being a felon. In my view, there must be a time period that especially permits the non-violent, ex-inmate to earn a real second chance at living his or her life exonerated from being labeled, “the evil one” which is what the term “felon” actually means.
The truth is that our legal, judiciary and penal systems need to rethink and so reevaluate their goals. I am presently writing a book with title, I Went to Prison and so Should You in an attempt to reveal the ex-inmates experiences and to suggest ways of making prison life more productive and positive for those who are now behind the wall or have been.
Yes, I am well aware that there are those prisoners who are violent and/or psychopathic; who truly are a threat to ordinary society. Yet, I am also convinced that there are better and so more rehabilitating procedures than are now practiced throughout the system. And so, it is also within my vision to serve those on both sides of the bars to create positive change.
All these goals are works in process so please check back often to see what’s new. In the meantime I’ve included a link to a wonderful music video by Keith Carridine called, “I’m A Born Again American.” Watch this video and help spread the word.I also invite you to take our poll and to create a free online account for this website—all those who create a free account will receive my bi-monthly E-Zine and other participation. Welcome to the Felon Project.
We all make mistakes and every day many people go to prison for theirs. As a result, they not only spend years of their lives behind bars but are branded felons forever…Their constitutional rights are stripped away and the pool of life’s opportunities all but dries up for them. While the law has not condemned them to life sentences, in effect, that is what every inmate is given. This serves only to diminish his or her chances to rebuild a constructive, socially productive life.
This is clearly wrong.