Commentary: Vick, and others, deserve second chance

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, May 29, 2009

Sports pages are awash in news about Michael Vick. Has he learned his lesson? Will the NFL return him to the fold? Will fans accept him?

Given professional sports’ penchant for forgiving its errant players, especially when those players are superstars, I'm betting that Vick will be playing again soon.

This is one of those rare instances where the rest of society would be well served to emulate professional sports - the forgive part. Some 600 thousand ex-cons leave prison every year. 67 percent are back behind bars within three years. In California the return rate is even higher.

The barriers to success are huge. In many cases, ex-offenders have to inform prospective employers about their criminal past. Some are denied public assistance, even food stamps. Many emerge from prison deep in debt, owing thousands in back child support, victim restitution and fines - debt they can never hope to repay.

As a society we need to do more to help people who've made mistakes build productive lives, not just celebrities, but the kid down the street who sold drugs, robbed a liquor store and yes, even killed someone. They are coming out of prison every day, and they, like Vick, deserve a second chance.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.