Regular readers may recall this post from a couple of months ago.  In it, I talked a bit about the broken nature of our penal culture.  Our laws systematize the development of a permanent underclass, especially targeting people of color.  Our drug laws make no sense, and punishment does not reduce drug use.  Private corporations make a profit on our broken penal system, keeping an American boot on the throats of the poor.  The exploitable underclass is a source of rich profit for many businesses, and felony disenfranchisement laws keep many people who have paid their debt to society from full representation and participation in the community. 

As Richard says in the video up top, there's plenty of people who belong in prison, but anyone who's paying attention knows our current penal and legal system is real fucked up. 

While well connected, high profile crooks are rarely convicted or pursued (and even when they are, they get standing ovations in ballrooms filled with blue suits), the poor get few if any opportunities to make they way back into society, even when they take responsibility for their actions and work to reform their lives.  Back in that earlier post, I told you of one such person I originally knew when he was a homeless 15 year old in a Houston youth shelter, back when I was a counselor there.  I wrote:

Still, through his experiences, I've gained a window into how difficult we make it to get access to those resources, how much our prison systems are rigged for harsh punishment over any chance at rehabilitation.  This is especially true after release:  there are very few, meagerly funded transitional programs swamped by waiting lists serving ex-offenders.  No one gets elected by helping them and few people make donations (ex-offenders aren't very cuddly looking).  Fundamentalist churches do some good, but they force you to become a wingnut to earn the right to eat.  Will my ex-offender make it eventually?  I don't know, but as long as he's making the real effort and keeping himself clean, I'll help.

Many of you were generous enough to contact me to see how you might be able to help him get back on track upon release.  Some other people have been asking me for an update on his progress.  The news on that front is good, folks, but he still needs some support.  Particularly, he needs help acquiring affordable transportation to get him to his new job.  I'll let him tell you all about it in his own words, right after the jump (I've X'd out some things to protect his privacy, but the rest is unedited):

Let me personally introduce myself as the one who was discussed in previous posts in this forum. My name is Dan XXXXXXX, 33 yrs old now after spending 3 years in the penal system here in Texas. Since my release in February 22, 2007 I have went to great lengths to readjust back into society without any help from the same government that enslaved me.

I have acquired all on my own accord, a two bedroom apartment and secured employment. I began working through a temp service and once they saw that I was willing to work hard, they put my on what is called "weekly tickets" full-time at the San Jacinto Port in Channelview, Texas, at a company called XXXXXXXXX, who is a branch of XXXXXXXXXXXXXX. After 3 mos. of working there through the temp agency and proving my ability as a good worker there I was offered a full-time position as a company employee. Here is my problem now…while working through the temp agency transportation to and from the jobsite was provided, but now that I have broken ties with the temp agency and am hired on direct with the company I have to continue to find a way to Channelview, TX from where my apartment is here in Pasadena, TX. 10-15 miles.

I have done well to arrange rides with co-workers thus far, but I foresee possible future problems. I make decent money now as a company employee, but I have no large lump sum to offer a dealership for a down payment on my own vehicle. And since I have no established credit, a car loan from an institution seems unobtainable at this point. So basically I've done well to do everything on my own, but I have reached a point where I simply need my own vehicle to not lose everything I've accomplished so far. I made a conscious choice to reform my life to the best of my ability and feel I have accomplished much but find myself in need of personal transportation. I do not have bad credit, only no credit established. So I would hate to lose everything now do to the fact I can't get to a good job which I fought hard for. I want to serve as proof that there is life after incarceration if you have the motivation and the drive to make it happen.

Any idea or channels that I may not be aware of would be of great assistance to me.

-Dan XXXXXX

If anyone has any ideas how he can get a cheap used car on some helpful credit or payment terms, that would be great.  Or, alternately, maybe someone knows about other potential community resources that might help.  Anyone who has ideas can contact me at pachacutec AT firedoglake DOT com.

Thanks, folks.  While the right wing thinks cheap forgiveness from Jesus on the dashboard erases all accountability, some other people actually try to take responsibility for their actions, reform and attempt to give back to the community.  Personally, I believe in encouraging those people, not by offering cheap forgiveness based on their mere words, but rather based on providing incremental opportunity earned through sustained positive action. 

In other words, I think our former FDL guest John Dean is pretty clearly back in good social graces, but the unrepentant Gordon Liddy. . . not so much. 

As for Dan, if you can offer him ideas or some assistance that amounts to a handup, not a handout, then that'd be much appreciated.  If he's not too beat after work, he may even drop by the comment thread tonight.