At the Orlando high school where I was once a school administrator, a distraught young man stood before me. He had sought me out for advice on a decision he was about to make, the consequences of which would be devastating, no matter the course he followed.
The 18-year old had been arrested, and was facing a misdemeanor pot possession charge. The prosecutor was offering a deal: Plead guilty and go home, or face jail time.
I told him to reject it.
“Later on, it’s going to hurt you,” I said.
He took the deal.
In Florida, too many kids have taken deals like these. As they quickly learned, that longing to go home turns into an unbreakable ball and chain, anchoring them to a rap sheet for the rest of their lives, and following them into higher education, careers, credit ratings, housing applications and even insurance rates.