“That which we call a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet.”
—from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
When we are born, we are given a first name, last name, and some may have one or more names in the middle of those two. As we grow up, going through the education system, our last name dominates and is used to identify us. It would sound a bit silly being called by your last name at home. Everyone would answer at the same time. I’m the youngest of six, so shouting “Breakspear, phone!” would’ve brought a stampede my way.
People have told me, “Ooh, you don’t look like a David,” as well as, “You’re a typical David, you are.” Take David out, replace it with your own name, and no doubt, you’ve heard comments like this yourself.
Name: A word, or words, that a person is known by.
Names are one thing; labels are another.
As the saying goes, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”
Labels can destroy you!
It is so easy — especially with how fast and instant life is these days — to rely on pre-existing labels or beliefs to judge others as a group, rather than seeing them as individuals.
One of those labels — and there are many I could have chosen — is the label of criminal. Or prisoner. The former will inevitably become the latter.
But what does a criminal/prisoner look like?
Then again, what does a victim look like?
And can one be both?
If you only read the Daily Mail, you can be forgiven for thinking our prisons only hold murderers, rapists, pedophiles, and terrorists. Yes! There are people in prison convicted of those crimes, but it’s only a fraction of a bigger story called the criminal justice system.
So, please, if you take anything away from this blog, I would like it to be the understanding that we are all individuals.
One of us.
Even people who commit crimes.
Labels, however, are for clothes.
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players,
They have their exits and their entrances.
And one man in his time plays many parts,
As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII. William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
David Breakspear began his journey as a returning citizen after four decades of experience in the criminal justice system. Since his release in June 2017, he has spoken to Parliament and delivered a TEDx talk about educational opportunities for incarcerated individuals. He is an organized crime researcher and the author of a novel on that topic called A Father’s Son. He lives in the U.K., where he continues to share his experiences and his passion for reform. Learn more about David from his website: journeyofareformedman.net.