The documentary by Brian Schodorf, “Poverty Swells the Streets of Chicago,” illuminates a few truths about homelessness, while grossly misleading the audience in other ways. The issue of handicapped homeless people is a real issue and needs to be addressed by the federal government. More assistance should be given to handicapped individuals who are no longer able to work or function normally in society. Additionally they point out how important it is for the welfare system to go through a change, in order to assist single mothers and discourage laziness and dependence. However, I would like to comment on the documentary overlooking the comments made in regards to convicts and the right to hold a decent job.
It is mentioned that convicts released from prison are brought to the Mission because they have nowhere to go. Later a woman living in Section 8 housing states that people are in poverty because employers will not hire you if you have a record or if you’ve been in jail. NO KIDDING!! The idea that a felon, when released from prison, should have first class citizenship and not be denied a job based on his previous actions is beyond ludicrous. The minimal sentence for statutory rape by an individual in Illinois, over the age of 17, on a victim 13 years old or younger is 6 years in prison, with a maximum of 30 years. The thought that an individual can commit such a heinous crime and 30 years later be allowed to live in society again, is ridiculous in itself; but to add that this individual is allowed to VOTE and be viewed as a first class citizen is truly insane.
It was posed in class that homeless people do not meet Judith Shklar’s definition of a citizen with standing, in her book American Citizenship, due to there inability to find a decent job and contribute to the work force, hence the community. Applying this idea to homeless individuals with a record, Shklar would say that it is not fair that these people are denied the opportunity to work, if they want to, since well- paying jobs are a right that everyone should have. WRONG: if someone commits a crime worthy of spending time in jail, they have FORFEITED THEIR CITIZENSHIP. These individuals do not deserve first class citizenship. If they did, what incentive would people have to not commit crimes? Jail offers a shelter from the elements and adequate food and healthcare, which is more than some homeless have on the street. The whole point of someone having a criminal record is to show others what crimes they have committed. The moment an individual decides to commit a felony, is the moment they forfeit opportunity and privilege. Voting and working are privileges. These privileges were denied to many, but are now made available to the majority of society. However, this majority should not include criminals.