It seems like when the “day goes wrong” in the criminal justice system, it really goes wrong. I have been spending a great deal of time thinking about just how to write this blog. Then I realized I had been thinking about it for a month, and it is just time to write.
I can’t explain the feelings that I have had since one of our clients took a life. He had only been out of prison for a short period of time, but had no previous history of anything remotely as violent as killing someone. It brings me right back to a day, many years ago, when my family wanted to know why I wanted to work in the criminal justice system. I have always felt rewarded knowing that maybe someone’s life would be a little better having had contact with me. Maybe their children’s lives would benefit from our contact also.
So, how has this tragic incident really affected me? It has led me to question the criminal justice system, the mental health system and psychiatry. I have traveled down a road that I never went down before questioning my self worth as a clinician. Is what I have been doing, for my entire career, been worth anything?
I received a phone call yesterday from a man, referred to me by the American Counseling Association, who is working on his Ph.D. after a successful 1st career in law enforcement. There was excitement in his voice, when he described to me, his many years of helping adolescents and teens stay out of the criminal justice system. Ah, I have always known that there are other folks as passionate as I am about helping people but this gentleman called right when I needed to hear another voice of passion.
So, now I have come full circle. I woke up this morning, excited to come to work. Excited about who I may be able to assist today. Excited about what the world holds for our clients and most importantly excited once again about who I am and how I might make someone’s life just a little better.
Nancy White is a counselor who has spent much of her professional life working in corrections.