Join Redemptive Life Foundation, in advocating to give Jason Ortega a chance at freedom.
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Jason Ortega is a 43-year-old Puerto Rican male originally from Miami Beach, Florida who is currently in prison for his role in a drug conspiracy that he entered into at age 15 while living in Norfolk, Virginia; which he was eventually convicted of for distributing crack cocaine and murder during a continuing criminal enterprise at age 23, and sentenced to life in federal prison. He was also sentenced to an additional 39 years by the Circuit Court of Virginia Beach for which he's serving a state sentence for an overt act of his federal drug conspiracy where he collected upon a drug debt with force and took more than was owed.
Now two decades later, Jason is candidly sharing how at age 15 when faced with family problems requiring adult decisions, he made some not-so-smart decisions out of fear and an undeveloped mind, to join a drug conspiracy to protect his family from drug dealers his father owed money to, that not only took advantage and manipulated Jason, but sought to kill him when he had learned too much and became a liability to them.
Jason was a victim of his own environment and father's drug addiction ----- an environment and father's drug addiction that as a 15-year-old teen, he had little ability to control. Our society is supposed to have certain mechanisms in a place to assist when things go awry. In Jason's situation, the mechanisms never kicked into gear as the Commonwealth dropped the ball and let him fall through the cracks, so it's no wonder Jason was incapable of appreciating that his actions would lead him to prison with a life sentence. He was a mixed-up teenager with mental and emotional issues who had no real concept of what real life was about.
It has become commonplace for stories like these to go unnoticed. We often dismiss them or justify the results. It is no surprise that the public has formed opinions that Jason deserves what happened to him, or that justice has been served and he is paying his debt to society as decided by a court of law but is what happened to Jason really justice? Is two decades enough time spent in prison for his crimes, especially when he was as much a victim under the circumstance that led to his imprisonment? And is his total amendment of life twenty years later worth anything? Do we keep Jason warehoused in prison although he is no longer a threat to the community and has already served two decades in prison?
Does it really make our communities safer to keep him warehoused, especially when statistics show us that he becomes a huge tax liability with each passing year that he gets older, and studies have shown that once offenders reach their 30's and start aging into their 50's, the rate of recidivism for them is exceedingly small (especially those serving time for most violent crimes); while younger offenders are more likely to recidivate than older men whose criminal history is long gone?
In fact, prisons are becoming full of older men who are no longer a threat, while many younger ones are being released back into the communities from local jails only after serving a year or two without the benefit of rehabilitative programs intended to reduce recidivism because state facilities are full. This only makes our communities less safe.
Groups of experts who really know something about human behavior and changing human behavior, as well as studies conducted across the board, and public opinion all support reform with the justice system. People are acknowledging that we have a different culture in this country that exists in Canada or Europe where people who commit very bad crimes serve 20 years or so, and yet their prison populations and recidivism rates are significantly far less than our own, so something has to change.
In the same way that news media and politicians like to push things into neatly manicured categories so that it requires little thought to understand. We live in a busy and chaotic society and it is much easier to compartmentalize than to learn all the nuances of every situation. That's why Jason has also revealed his whole thought process at the time for us to learn what preventive measures we can come up with to keep other juveniles from following in his footsteps and making unwise decisions that can affect them for the rest of their lives; because with many adult offenders as with Jason, their criminal behavior began when they were just juveniles.
So Jason's insights into the flaws of the juvenile justice system and how he was directly impacted by it from age 10 to 18, as well as identifying the struggles and barriers he faced in transitioning to adulthood, will be significant as he offers up holistic solutions from the perspective of a man who gave his life to Christ Jesus after his incarceration, became a licensed minister involved in ministering God's love and word to the men he's been incarcerated with, and serving as a ministry leader and bible study teacher who's spent the last twenty years incarcerated.
Jason says, one of the biggest problems with our legal system, and juvenile justice system, in particular, is the ideology that many professional's in law enforcement, the justice system, and corrections hold of seeing the problem of crime in a one-dimensional way. They see themselves as the good guys, while the offenders of the law are the bad guys; which breeds the attitude that their job is to lock up all the bad guys for as long as they can. This attitude is not rational, and only becomes the goal for many prosecutors: to lock up as many so-called bad guys as they can, for as long as they can.
Jason further states that many people assume that those who go to prison are just bad seed ---------- people who are basically evil and born to be rebels. He then asks, "Was he or other delinquent children born that way or did their parents, other adults, society-at-large or the circumstances of life so corrupt them that they took the only path that was open to them?"
He adds, that there are real criminals in prison but the average offender of the law is really a drug addict who has committed crimes because of their addiction. Addiction can and often does make one act irrational to the point of committing crimes to feed their addiction. In fact, about 90% of all inmates are partially or fully addicted to some harmful substance.
There are many parts of the problem, so join with us in affecting change in the form of an overhaul of the flaws in the justice system, and giving Jason another chance at freedom. It's no doubt that Jason would be a value to any community he would return to as a Minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ and mentor to at-risk teens, but also as an advocate for justice reform with the knowledge and experience, he holds of the flaws in the system. He also is a great example of a person who's made a total amendment of life, and what it takes to arrive there. To learn more about Redemptive Life Foundation, or Jason's story, visit the Redemptive Life Foundation's website.
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