- Faith & Family
The people who run Miami Gardens will soon vote on whether to exclude all ex-felons from volunteering in the City’s parks and recreation programs. Two weeks ago, the Council was split on an ordinance that would disqualify anyone with two or more convictions, regardless of when they occurred, from volunteering their time with youth. Close to 100 coaches could soon be told, “thanks but your services are no longer needed.” What then will happen to the programs and to the hundreds of boys and girls that participate in them almost every day?
The debate over ex-felon volunteers is a complex issue. Because of its complexity there are no handy solutions on which the Council can lean. That’s because there are a variety of categories for felony crimes — some are as white collar as one can get. But there are some felonies that are so heinous that we might be wise to keep the perpetrators from being involved with our youth. Maybe the thing to do would be to review the history of each applicant and decide case by case. That would mean more work for the Council but it seems like it would be a more fair method. And it’s one that many cities are already using.
Some of the Council members claim their vote is nothing personal but rather is a way to raise the standards. But that’s a little hard to swallow given the problems with crime, unemployment and their budget. It seems standards should go towards those problems as well. Perhaps it’s just a case of Blacks being particularly hard on each other — we can forgive but we cannot forget. The only problem is that we are often victims of a criminal justice system that doles out punishment and felony records on a continuum that is unjust. Some crimes can be easily wiped off of records while others hold back the offender for the rest of their lives. Somehow we have to find a workable medium so that being a ex-felon does not continue to equate being viewed as a lifelong criminal. On the surface the vote is about coaches and kids in Miami Gardens. But lingering underneath the rhetoric may be something far more sinister and exclusionary. We can only hope that the Council will deliberate long and intently before casting their vote.