Originally published on 3/21/2012
Ethics and consequences: Thinking back 11 years ago, I would never have considered that I, a competent, well educated man, would be sitting in prison. That was a life educational experience where I learned, really for the first time, that there are consequences to every unethical choice we make. Though one might think that we can avoid the consequences, the reality is that they are unavoidable and certain. We just don’t know how or when we will face the inevitable.
While the prison experience was painful, as the following excerpt from my memoirs shows, it provided a foundation for an incredible opportunity for growth. Likewise, through the prison experience I found numerous ways to help others.
Reflecting on my journal dated – October 6, 1995 reads as follows:
“8:37 a.m. — Reading this morning brought up feelings of sadness, once again. I understand I’m here to be punished, and being away from my children and the things I hold dear is punishment.
4:00 p.m. — Its time for mail call and stand up count time. I live for this time. Being cut off from society is difficult. I hope each day that someone cares enough to send me a letter.
9:40 p.m. — At dinner tonight I had a revelation, I need to talk to high school children and college kids, about the effects of the choices they make. 70% or more of the people here are here for drug-related crimes. It’s sad to see the educational level of most of the inmates. How can anyone expect to ever break the cycle of poverty and crime, if they don’t have the education to do so? I don’t know my role now, but hopefully someday I can make a difference.”
This was a very painful time in my life with many lessons to learn. I learned about punishment and self-esteem based on internal validation rather than external validation. I also learned that many people repeat the lessons of family members gone before them and not realizing they truly had other choices. Now, some eleven years later, I find that the personal growth from the prison experience provided a foundation for help to others. The revelation to speak to high school and college students about ethics has manifested through the establishment of the Choices Foundation, which provides a forum to educate young people on the effects of the choices they make.
It’s extremely powerful to see and hear how young people react to the messages of choice and consequence. All too often they don’t experience the direct consequence of the unethical choices they make. The detriment of youth is you haven’t lived long enough to see the link between choice and outcome. Likewise, many youth, other than perhaps those extremely disadvantaged, have no connection with anyone who has been incarcerated for their actions. Then there are those who experience being incarcerated as a way of life for their family. Therefore, being exposed, in a direct way, to someone who has made unethical choices and faced the consequences, and returned to society to success, is profound to some.
All too often we find that “ethics” and “ethical choices” dominate our media through news events of what has been done wrong. In order to change our focus, we must create an awareness of what should be done right. Ethics and ethical thoughts must begin with an understanding that one cannot escape the consequences of their personal choices.