Achieving impossible dreams
- By Richard Branson -
- Nov 14, 2012
When was the last time you were part of an incredibly inspiring group of people achieving impossible dreams?
This week, we visited Virgin Galactic’s Mojave California based operations and met the men and women who are helping us achieve commercial space travel. But we also visited a corner of downtown Los Angeles that is working on an equally difficult and complex challenge one person at a time.
Amity Foundation has been running a centre for the last 11 years for formerly incarcerated people overcoming drug addiction. Amity’s “students” work together to fight the root of their drug addictions and to become productive citizens. Some of them were in jail multiple times and even serving life sentences before joining Amity to shed addiction and overcome the cycle of poverty.
40% of people incarcerated in California – or 150,000 people - are from LA county. By locking them up, we are not solving problems, we are risking our collective futures; for every 200 women locked up, more than 900 children grow up relying on strained child protective services and alternative living situations. Imagine what we are doing by building prisons when we can build schools and help restore people and families. It’s not about bad apples; it’s about bad barrels.
The centre’s CEO, Rod Mullen, described me to the students as someone who believes in “having really big dreams and then running as hard as you can to catch up to make them happen”.
The people of Amity have seemingly impossible dreams too: to not have addictions, to make a meaningful life, to be a good person to your family and friends. These are dreams that we all share.
We spoke to a young man who had just served time in prison. "You're not a bad apple," I said. "You've been in a bad barrel."
This fall in the US, two states, Colorado and Washington, legalized marijuana, and California repealed its three strikes rule which can hand life sentences to nonviolent offenders. Two documentaries about the disastrously ineffective war on drugs were released and next month, my son Sam’s documentary, Breaking the Taboo, continues efforts to open up the dialogue about the war on drugs and alternatives that countries have adopted that work. Alternatives like the work at Amity Foundation.
Our society can do better than unfairly incarcerating our friends, siblings, parents and neighbors.
Let’s stop relying on a cruel penal system that locks people up and instead treat drugs as a health issue.
By Richard Branson. Founder of Virgin Group