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Second Chances

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Our legal system is based on the idea that a person convicted of a crime can be rehabilitated after accepting their punishment and paying their debt, but as a society we are sometimes reluctant to allow that punishment to end when the sentence expires.

Some Hillsville Fire Department volunteers are threatening to walk away from the agency now that a suspended member has been reinstated. Roger Hawthorne is back on call after pleading guilty to an embezzlement charge unrelated to the fire department.

Fire Chief Mike Musser took a noble stance when he said that we should be more willing to forgive and less judgmental of a person who has done their time and taken responsibility for their actions.

(This comes from a man who works as a first sergeant with the Virginia State Police, so he knows a thing or two about crime and punishment.)

In fact, Musser says that not allowing Hawthorne to volunteer would be unfair to the community, given his skills. He has a good point. Finding qualified emergency workers has never been easy, so it would be shame to deny someone who has the desire to help.

Should this be a precedent for others seeking reinstatement after being accused or convicted of crimes?

No. As Musser states, each case is different. In Hawthorne's case, it was not a crime against a person or an act of violence. It was a mistake, a moment of human weakness and poor judgment.

Were that to disqualify a person from volunteering, how many of us would pass muster?

The bigger crime in this situation would be to deny the community the services of a qualified volunteer —and for other volunteers to turn their backs on a fellow firefighter.