A Florida father made a mistake that all too many parents have made at some point in time: he strapped his little girl into a car set, tossed the keys on the front seat and then shut the door. That’s when he realized that he had accidentally locked his one-year-old daughter in the car.
Thankfully, help came quickly…just not from who you’d expect it to. It didn’t come from a pricey locksmith, or the local police, but rather a group of low-level offenders who were nearby repairing parking lot medians.
The four Pasco County inmates were part of Florida’s Department of Corrections Work-Release Program, a program that allows certain inmates to take on paid employment opportunities in the community while serving the last few months of their prison sentence.
The money they earn from their jobs is divided up into certain categories; some pays for their subsistence while other portions of the funds cover court payments and restitution costs, family assistance payments, and incidentals. About 10% of all the funds the inmates earn via the program are transferred to their savings account for future use.
As the local sheriff accurately noted, the men are not hardened criminals but rather people who have made mistakes or bad choices but who now want to do the right thing in life.
When they saw the situation in the nearby parking lot, the inmates, along with the deputies who were supervising them, ran over to see how they could help. The little girl in the car was crying and sucking her pacifier. It was 56 degrees outside, which meant that thankfully the girl was not in danger of suffering health problems due to extreme heat as would have been the case had the incident occurred during the hot summer months.
The father, for lack of a better idea, talked with the deputies about smashing in the front door driver’s window in order to get to his keys and unlock the door. However, the inmates working with the deputies had a much better idea. They asked the deputies if they could use their unique skill set to break into the car. It would not only be safer for the child but also save the father the hassle and cost of having to replace the broken window.
Once the deputies gave permission for the offenders to break into the car, they got straight to work. One of them got a hanger while another pried open the car door a bit so that his colleague could use the hanger to unlock the car. While the father peered in at his daughter so that she would not be afraid of all the strange faces peeking in through the windows, the inmates successfully unlocked the car doors.
The police-sanctioned car “break-in” job took only a few minutes and was caught on video by the child’s mother who was bemused by the whole incident. She later stated on video, “Thank God for the criminals in the world. I respect all you all.” The little girl was not hurt in the incident and the family thanked those who had offered their help.
Most people think of those in the criminal justice system as being individuals who deserve whatever punishment society has meted out to them. While this is indeed the case in many instances, the fact is that God has given each person a conscience and there are many individuals in prisons throughout the country who truly regret their past lives and want to make right decisions in the future.
As these four inmates have clearly shown, one’s current station in life does not have to determine one’s attitude. In fact, it is possible to find compassion and caring individuals in even the most surprising places.
The story can serve as a good reminder to parents to be careful when getting ready to take a child out on a trip as even small slip-ups can have unintended consequences that are not easily resolved.
However, even more importantly, it is a poignant reminder that even those who appear to have a less than perfect record still have much to offer society at large and, if given a chance, these individuals will change their lives for the better and improve the lives of those around them as well.