Redemption, Forgiveness, and Public Safety: The Importance of Helping Ex-Offenders Work Their Way Back and Best Ways of Doing So


Mitch Pearlstein
Founder & President

The edited discussion that follows is based on the most recent installment of American Experiment’s “ReThinking Minnesota,” a roundtable series led by Senior Fellow Peter Bell.  It was held on June 5, and as come to be the custom, at the Capitol in St. Paul.

As the title above makes clear, the topic, once again, was a particularly tough problem in need of new—which is also to say reasonably brave—study and reconsideration, the very purpose of the now year-old series.

The announcement for the session put it this way: “What ought to be conservatives’ favored paths for ex-offenders working their way back into society that’s neither Pollyannish nor mean-spirited?”  And “How can we reconcile belief in redemption and forgiveness while simultaneously recognizing that government’s first job is protecting its citizens?”

The topic, I should add, was partially prompted by the Center’s interest in re-institutionalizing marriage, especially in low-income communities. It’s an aim stymied, however, by the fact that having a record makes getting a good job unusually hard, which in turn makes many men less marriageable in the eyes of many women.

In addition to my long-time friend and American Experiment colleague Peter Bell, my great thanks to panelists Dan Cain, President of RS Eden; Louis King, President and CEO of Summit Academy OIC; Sen. Warren Limmer, Chairman of the Minnesota Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee; Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek; and Sarah Walker, COO of 180 Degrees.  I’m also most grateful to Senior Fellow Kent Kaiser for another top-flight job of copy editing, and Beverly Hermes for another excellent job of transcribing the near-90 minutes of conversation.

And as with all we do, we very much welcome your comments.

September 2012