Criminal reform: Why wake-up calls are windows of opportunity

Here's how we can use the concept of "impact impression" for criminal reform.

BISHOP OMAR JAHWAR: The first way to break the wall down, and this is very important, is someone previously went through the same issue that you're going through and they made it. So one of the keys is finding others who have overcome the issues that you are facing. That gives a person a sense of hope. I say this a lot, that hope does for you -- you can use hope when you don't have product; you can use hope when you don't have a real solution. So hopefulness starts building your resistance to this idea of bitterness and stagnation so you need to have a hopeful outcome and that hope normally is triggered with someone who says "I affirm where you are but I know how to get you past it. I know where we can go beyond it." Now, that might take a serious -- I don't want to get too theoretical, but we used to call it impact impression. Sometimes you need an impact impression that causes you to wake up and say "Okay" -- some people call it intervention. Or maybe you need some series of ideas. Or maybe you need an awakening, but there has to be this moment where it affirms that you are not alone. See, if you think your problem is very unique, you believe that no one else can understand it other than you so you've got to have some people say, "No, I get that. I get that. That makes sense to me." But that's not all, that's just the beginning. And so you've got to then travel over this arc of how you move past these small nuances of hurt and pain that keep you kind of constrained.

Impact impression is a young man who is operating in a lifestyle that is negative, whether it be drugs, whatever their case, and someone who he loves is killed instantly. Whoa, how do I respond to that? Do I now become a killer? What's my immediate – is it fight or flight? And it's those lit-up moments, those pictures that become permanent scars or permanent marks on your thought process. I used to be good but I realized a death, a loved one who turns on you, those things that really cause you to wake up, it's in those moments that someone has to be there to say, "Wait a minute, let me reorganize what you're looking at and let me take you a little deeper," because if not you will either use it as a way to gain momentum in a negative route or you'll use it to get yourself help, get yourself whole again. So those impact impressions I mean, man, I cannot tell you how many young people when I interviewed them when they went to prison, their first interview they would say, "I was just doing this and then my boy called me..." They were just like: "Wednesday was just like Tuesday," but something happened that Wednesday that changed every other Wednesday for the rest of their life. That's the impact impression.

  • In his work in criminal reform, Bishop Omar Jahwar recounts how a person's life trajectory can typically be traced back to a moment of trauma or an 'impact impression'.
  • An impact impression has two outcomes: It can be an awakening that steers people in a positive direction where they seek help, or it can become a negative spiral that lands them in prison. In the latter case, supporting people in undoing the damage and mental scars they've incurred from such impact impressions can help reduce recidivism.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.