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April 25, 2008

Bring ’Em On

The Washington Post ran a front-page piece this week about the rise in military waivers for ex-convicts. You have to read for a while before you come to the sentence letting us know that "the vast majority of such convictions stem from juvenile offenses." Also, that "most involve theft." And that those with waivers constitute "less than 1 percent of the total soldiers and Marines recruited" in 2007.  Also that huge numbers of waivers are also being given for medical reasons--such as would-be soldiers being overweight.

So this story seems like much ado about not very much--certainly not front-page fodder.

But let's think about this for a minute, anyway, as employees of a world-wide prison ministry. What's the Number One problem for ex-cons? Finding a job. And because of the way America treats drug crimes, we have huge numbers of people (especially young people) in prison or on parole for drug-related offenses. Should the U.S. military be one more employer that says, "No, we don't want you"?

The military offers young ex-offenders a chance to straighten out their lives and perhaps learn a marketable skill for when they finish military service. Would we prefer to have those (in 2007) 13,000 young men on the streets, jobless--or serving their country, learning self-control, and perhaps straightening out their lives, permanently?

As long as Army and Marine higher-ups are keeping a close eye on each waiver granted (and they are), and on how each candidate performs once accepted, I say, bring 'em on.

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Jason Taylorj

Not in a counterinsurgency. Convicts gain a bad reputation for the whole service. That wouldn't be so important if we just intended to make a desert and call it peace. But that is not practical for us at the present time, however useful a method it has been in the past.

Jason Taylor

Excuse me, that should be Jason Taylor. I don't know who Jason Taylorj is. Must be one of my enemies out to get me.


Jason, take comfort in the fact that you only have enemies when you've said something worth fighting about.

I, for one, appreciate that you're no longer switching between "Jason Taylor" and "jason taylor"; thanks.

The recent conflict over the name "Steve" and my own change of sign-in cause me to think about identity. Does anyone, other than Jesus, really know who we are? Do we ourselves even know?

To try (feebly; my apologies) to tie this back to Anne's original point, I imagine an ex-convict saying "That's who I was. That's not who I am today."

My wife and I had a small argument over allowing ex-cons to protect and defend; she isn't willing to trust 'em. She feels a demonstration of honor and devotion to duty should be required before conferring the uniform. I think that's certainly true for officers, but hasn't historically been the case for non-coms. But both of us are nervous about arming and training someone who's shown at least once that they're not trustworthy. And we don't want to sully the reputation of those who are serving and have served with honor.

Ringing in my ears, though, is "That's who I *was*."

I've learned about identity security, both professionally and (sadly enough) personally. It's strangely difficult both to maintain one's identity, and to change it.

Just ask the newly-converted St. Paul, I suppose.

And that does seem to be a strong argument in favor of Anne's point; for every Hymenaeus, Alexander or Diotrephes causing trouble *from within the ranks*, there's probably at least one St. Paul wanting in.

But my wife would still prefer that they spend time in Damascus and Tarsus before going to Jerusalem, and even then only with the certification and continued supervision of a Barnabas.

Gina Dalfonzo

Oh, I thought perhaps it was your evil twin. :-)

Jason Taylor

I was thinking more of practicality then of the moral quality of the personal. You could have an army composed of convicts in Kipling's time and do pacification operations with it. It really can't be done now. Victorian officers were not necessarily war criminals, but they lived in an age that was less particular about such things for better or worse and if convict soldiers behaved like convicts that was-regretable.
However we cannot afford to be cavalier today and not just for moral reasons but because we do wish to win.

Nathan Swenson

I think that for those individuals that are trying to change their lives should have the opportunity. The military is an excellent place to give someone the skills they will need in life, and give them some awesome responsibilities and experience they are never going to get elsewhere.

If they fail at this, they are going to fail elswere, but it would be better to have them fail in such a structured environment.

Jason Taylor

The purpose of the military is to defend America. By definition if they cause us to lose then they have failed.

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