Full Ride – by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2013)

Full Ride

Becka is just an ordinary 8th-grade student, until the day her father is arrested on federal embezzlement charges. It’s hard to believe that the loving man she believed her father to be is actually a criminal. Becka and her mom suffer through the shame and embarrassment of the trial, then relocate five hundred miles away under assumed names. Starting life over as someone new is much harder than they thought it would be, but they manage to keep their past a secret for three years. When Becca gets to her senior year in high school, she hopes for a full-ride scholarship to pay for college. But applying for financial aid may reveal her family secret.

Although this is a fictional tale, it conveys the agony of family members left behind when their loved one is caught and sentenced to prison. Kids are ridiculed by their classmates. Spouses are scorned by co-workers. News reporters hound them. Their finances are trashed, as they spend most of their money on court/lawyer costs. They might lose their home, and start over somewhere else, at a much lower standard of living. Society feels little sympathy for the family, rationalizing that surely they must have known about the crime, and perhaps were even participating in it or benefitting from i.

Margaret Haddix was inspired to write this book after visiting a juvenile detention center in Ohio to talk about the importance of books and reading. The detainees asked her to consider writing a book about imprisonment, and this is the result. It may not be quite what the young people she spoke with were anticipating in a book, but it portrays how difficult it is to be the family of someone imprisoned. Whether you are a teenager or middle-aged or older, this is a great book to read.

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The Season Of Thankfulness, Day 8

Manson-June-2011
Photo by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation – Yahoo News, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18974779

This morning, as I am reading the news, there are two stories about prison. The first is about Charles Manson, the man who orchestrated the brutal slaughter of seven Californians back in the 1960s. I think most people would agree that this was a rightful imprisonment, as he would likely have continued to kill (or have his followers kill) if he had not been stopped by imprisonment. Manson died yesterday of natural causes.

The second story was about the three U.S. basketball players that shoplifted from three different stores while they were in China. The young men were arrested, and were facing a possible ten year sentence in a foreign prison. President Trump spoke with President Xi Jinping, who intervened in the case. The basketball players were released from prison and allowed to go home.

I think we can all agree that incarcerating someone for ten years for petty theft is a punishment that does NOT fit the crime. But I was troubled by the nonchalance of the father of one of the young men. Here is a quote from the CNN article:

“As long as my boy’s back here, I’m fine,” he said. “I’m happy with how things were handled. A lot of people like to say a lot of things that they thought happened over there. Like I told him, ‘They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.’ I’m from L.A. I’ve seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses.”
source: http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/18/politics/lavar-ball-donald-trump/index.html

I read this and thought: What on earth is the matter with you, Mr. Ball?! “A big deal out of nothing?” Your son has just been spared ten years in a foreign prison (which I’m pretty sure would have been far worse than one of our prisons). He would have been too far away for you to even visit, and who knows if you would have been allowed to correspond by letter? Your son was a guest in another country, and he stole from his host. I know, I know, you don’t think it’s any big deal to steal, but the theft showed a total disrespect for a country that welcomed him in to play sports. To make it even worse, when your son was allowed to come home, you weren’t even really grateful to the Chinese president for sparing him the imprisonment. It seems that your disdain for President Trump and the country of China is more important to you than the fact that your son is FREE. You should be down on your knees, thanking God that you still have your son.

Today I am thankful to not be in prison. No, I have not committed a crime. But in many countries, my belief that Jesus Christ is the Savior would be enough to land me in prison for a long time. There are many people imprisoned for no reason other than they hold the “wrong” religious affiliation. In this season of thankfulness, I am very grateful to be living where I am living, in freedom.