Crime is a source of great danger to our families, friends, values, and society. Five minutes of capricious violence can leave you crippled for life or dead. A burglary can destroy the vital sense of security we have in our own homes. So let me tell you a true story that can help guide us to a healthier and safer criminal justice system.
In 1976 a young professor was teaching economics at Chittagong University in Bangladesh. As the professor drove through villages on his way to the university, he saw many people dying in the streets because of the extensive famine that was ravaging Bangladesh at that time. The sight of so much suffering led the professor to ques¬tion himself. He loved teaching and he loved economics, but why did this huge and elaborate economic system, which worked for so many around the world, not work for the people in his local villages?
The professor reacted in an interesting way; he took his stu¬dents out of the university and into a nearby village to find out what was happening. It turned out that the village people knew how to work, cook, raise their children, create community and do all the things that make us human, but they were so desperately poor that they could not get any financial help to lift themselves out of poverty. So the professor reached into his own pocket and took out the equivalent of $27 and gave it to 42 women. With the $27 the women could now afford to buy bamboo materials and through hard work and ingenu¬ity they were able to make and sell bamboo furniture, pay back the $27 loan, and still make a small profit that was enough to develop a thriving business and lift themselves out of poverty.
The professor, Muhammad Yunus, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work in setting up the Grameen Bank (www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2006/yunus-bio.html), which today gives very small or “microloans” to more than 2 million people who are lifting themselves out of poverty.
What if we had $27 solutions that could lift people out of crime and make the public safer? What do I mean by $27 solutions? If you look closely at the Muhammad Yunus story you will see some very important points about the transformation he brought. First, the transformation began with a change in Muhammad himself. He had to leave the known world of his university and go on a journey of personal change and development to discover a new way of doing business. Comparing Muhammad’s new approach to economics to the traditional approach of his day we can see that it was: 1) more compassionate; 2) more effective; 3) healthier; and 4) less costly. Similarly, we must first go on a journey that will lead to changes in ourselves that will then allow us to create a correctional and criminal justice system that is:
1) more compassionate;
2) more effective;
3) healthier; and
4) less costly.
There are many $27 solutions available to us right now, so we welcome you to join Transforming Corrections in this journey of discovery and implementation.