I’ve had the good fortune to have been around many people who have been in jail. Yes, you read correctly, I didn’t say misfortune, I said good fortune! You might think that it would be bad to know lots of folks who walked the halls of jail or prison but I say its good fortune because I’ve seen the real reasons many people ended up in jail. Also, I feel I have a good handle on what keeps many behind bars and what keeps many high risk people, out of the hoosegow as well. Thus, yeah, good fortune.
It’s not so much that I was a cop for most of my adult life that I know these things. No, being a cop helped me to understand one part of the puzzle but so many cops just scoop em up and lock em and go to the next call. Few have time to reflect about deep reasons because they’re too busy surviving and keeping one step above the bad guys to make sure they stay healthy and uninjured.
I started seeing different dynamics when I started teaching in college. I had heart to heart talks with many students who came from bad neighborhoods where murder was commonplace, general crime even more commonplace, where hope was just about dead, and addiction was rampant. What was telling to me was that some of these students were ones who committed crimes and were involved in drugs and addictions. And now, they were trying to better themselves. Many were a rare breed in the sense that they did not want to be a victim of life any longer, they did not want to be a loser anymore, they did not want to go to jail anymore; they wanted to be SOMEBODY.
In today’s day of political correctness, some may ask what does SOMEBODY really mean. Like, isn’t everyone a somebody? The kind of people I’m talking about have been on the tough end of life and certainly the wrong side of the tracks throughout most of their lives. They’ve felt the lack of dignity of being herded like cattle in jail. They’ve felt the pain of constantly having no money. They’ve felt the void of having no one to mimic other than criminals, cons and liars. The darkness of having no hope and the very real fact of having a poor future. They’ve seen so many people succumb to generations of nothingness that they felt like they were nothing much more than flesh with needs. And here is why everyone should be concerned about this topic; many of these people will kill someone in a heartbeat because they feel like nothing inside other than a piece of flesh that needs to fill immediate gratifications.
Some of these people who felt like nothing but a pound of flesh have been fortunate to have been given a spark from someone that showed them that there was something different out in life and something possibly different for them. Some were shown that they could be somebody, somebody good, somebody with dignity, not just somebody siting in a hopeless jail cell or a dingy porch with no hope all day long. One of these men told me that when he was in a large jail facility awaiting trial, a morning-shift jailer would put a motivational quote on a whiteboard every morning that basically said; every day was a new day and they could start making their lives completely different from where it was at now. Other quotes explained that it was up to them to change to be something different and good; that morning.
That lowly jailer changed that man’s life. Those morning quotes sparked a flame of hope and a basic direction to follow. That inmate built on that basic direction and learned more ways in which he could be different; all from a spark from one individual! He went on to go to college and to be a great student and also a great person. He feels like someone now. He feels like he has hope and that he can do positive things in life.
I’ve talked to many people like the man I describe. Many have been given a spark of hope by someone. Sadly, some fail to be somebody. They try, but the wrong kind of peer pressure, which is a strong downfall for many, or the pain of getting up early in the morning, day in and day out, or the very real issue of having no lasting encouragement in their lives steers them into traps. Traps like sitting by the TV all day, perhaps downing a bottle of cheap booze or worse, heroin, crack-cocaine or the cool drug of the day. Some fall victim to the over dependence on public assistance where the ease of just surviving is an easy option. I had a student ready to graduate tell me, “Mr. Kovacs, my mother was on welfare, I was on welfare and now my kids are getting to the age of being on welfare. I’m getting off now and I’m going to use my degree and what I learned to have my dignity. And I want my kids to be somebody too.”
I have been so impressed with so many of these people who have overcome or are in the process of overcoming that I feel it a privilege to be in their company. What I have seen is that crime, hopelessness and being lost in life is not a color or a nationality “thing”. It is a human “thing” and for those who have never been given the tools to know their true value, their true potential and how to proceed in a productive way, it is an almost insurmountable condition in life.
But I have seen time and time again that with mentorship from a leader, teacher, cop, jailer, reverend, mom or dad that anyone can be somebody no matter where they’re at in their life. No one can do it for them, but many can light the very real and very powerful spark in them . . . to be somebody.
Steve's a three-time survivor of violence in his youth and was an award winning police officer.
For several years, Steve also did radio political and current event commentary and taught college Criminal Justice. He is the former host of the long running 'The Kovacs Perspective' Internet radio talk show.
Presently, Steve is the owner and Managing Director of one of the oldest martial art schools in Ohio, 'The Mayfield Academy of Self-Defense'.
Latest posts by Steve Kovacs (see all)
- Black Lives Really Mattering and My Friend the Boxer - September 7, 2017
- Meaning—Makes the Man and Woman–Makes the Difference - August 28, 2017
- Bars, Demonstrations, and Getting Thumped… - August 14, 2017