Mitch is right. I was wrong!

I am ashamed! Confession time. 

You may have seen a blog post I wrote earlier this month when Kyra Harris Bolden, newly elected Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, hired a former criminal, Pete Martel, as her law clerk. Pete had served time for a foolish crime, committed as a young man. Upon his release, he not only obtained a college degree, but went on to get a law degree from Wayne State. A strong advocate for persons behind bars, he eventually was employed by the State Appellate Defender Office. He was perfect for the job! 

We were elated to hear that this returning citizen was chosen by our new Michigan Supreme Court Justice to be her law clerk. But then the hammer fell. Justice Richard Bernstein expressed his disgust and insisted that a person with that kind of record should never work in the Supreme Court Office. Rather than embarrass Justice Bolden, Pete quietly resigned. 

That’s when pompous Doug Tjapkes (champion and crusader for “second chances”) fired off a blog site post, encouraging the Bernstein family to call Richard back to the insurance business. We couldn’t trust him for important future decisions any more. We wanted him off the bench. Sure, he later apologized…too little, too late. 

I didn’t come to my senses until a few days later when I grabbed a Detroit Free Press and saw that Mitch Albom was writing about the Justice Bernstein outrage. Hoping to be reinforced in my position by this famous author, I was intrigued by the headline discussing second chances and who gets them. Whoops! 

Albom told of a most unusual meeting recently in Detroit’s Nazarene Missionary Baptist Church, where a group of former prisoners and their advocates confronted Justice Bernstein. Even the pastor who was coordinating the meeting had done time behind bars. They sat in a circle. 

The meeting, which was to have lasted one hour, ran 3 more hours. One by one these people told Justice Bernstein what it was really like trying to return to society. According to persons who attended the meeting, he hung onto every word. Not only that, by the end of the meeting he was hugging the participants and weeping. He confessed his erroneous position. 

Bernstein’s conclusion: “I now know how it feels to want a second chance.” 

Back to my blog piece, giving Bernstein hell for not allowing Pete Martel a second chance. In the same breath, I was insisting that Bernstein not get a second chance! 

I’ve often suspected that I might be a hypocrite, but I didn’t realize that it came with a capital H! 

I must humbly and wholeheartedly concur with Mitch Albom’s final line: “Second chances work in strange ways. But we are all worthy of them, judges and returning citizens alike.” 

Now it’s my turn to ask for one.


Wflower2001 said…
Doug you are not a hypocrite, You are a kind-hearted man, who just wants to see people get their second chance & thank you for that.
To be honest Bernstein started it. :)

Pat Hardy said…
"No second chances" is a red flag statement for all of us! I, too, was irate read when I read those words pronounced by Bernstein. I, too, changed my mind when I read Mitch's story. We all need second chances. Many of us need even more. You are no hypocrite. You see how injustice is rampant in the criminal justice system!

Pat Hardy
MaryMargaret said…
Beautiful post Doug. Your humility is a thing of beauty. An important life's lesson. Shalom, MaryMargaret

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