Community Decisions- Living Life, or Living Criminal

This article is a part of a series written by the 10th grade Dem. Roots classes called Community Decisions. This article is written by Penelope Edgar.


To many people once you are a criminal you are no longer seen as a human being.  It is only when you’re described as a criminal that you can truly see how unfair and flawed it is.  


Eric lived life as many do. He got up each morning to go to work,  he was a father to two girls and he was a husband. Until one day he became a criminal. 


On December 6th, 2011, Eric and five others protested wind towers being built on Lowel mountain. Eric was concerned about the effect the wind towers would have on life in the surrounding area. “I want to preserve some kind of future for my children in Vermont, my two daughters, and if we’re going to be destroying the land we live on we’re not going to be able to do that,” he said. 


The land was not owned by the company that was planning to build, and the owners didn’t want the windmills to be erected.  However, things didn’t go as planned: the protesters were arrested and sentenced to community service; the wind towers were still built. 


Eric then realized that his life might not be what he wanted it to be. He realized that the world wasn’t the world that he wanted for his daughters. 



Protest against wind power


Eric decided to extract himself from society. “I had to give up everything.” Eric might have not realized it at the time, but this decision would cost him his relationship with his family. 


Due to Eric’s choice of going “full hermit,” his marriage ended quite messily. He was kicked out of his house, which led him to build a cabin in the woods. He was being arrested frequently. One day, he was there, and the next, he was gone. According to society, he had “gone off the rails.” His wife got a restraining order against him, which resulted in him losing contact with his children. He was considered a criminal, and no longer had the option to be there for his daughters. 


His decision would impact the rest of his life. If Eric changed his mind and decided to rejoin his old life, he would go straight to jail. Eric has broken so many rules that law enforcement is always looking for him: he no longer has the option to be a “good dad.” 


Seeking connection, and attempting to mend past wounds, Eric, at one point, reached out to his daughters letting them know he was there for them. But his girls went on with life without him.


To live in line with what he felt was his true purpose, Eric got rid of his license, and license plates. He would do carpentry for various jobs, under the table, often bartering for his work, or asking for donations if desired. His main goal was to be his truest self. His goal was to live in the present and take one day at a time.  


According to the law, Eric was a criminal. He was driving a truck that would barely run. Being arrested had become an everyday thing for him. When he would go to court, he simply would refuse to participate. “If the authority was asking me to do something that didn’t make sense to me, there was no reason for me to do it.” This put many people in a weird position because he wasn’t doing much wrong. “I’m just allowing myself to actually follow my desire, rather than conform to something, which didn’t really make as much sense.” 


In choosing to question authority, and reflecting on his true purpose, Eric concluded that he needed to make hard choices to ensure the best environment for his daughters’ future. Aside from protesting the windmills in the Northeast Kingdom, Eric spent many months protesting the pipelines out west.


Did living this life make him a criminal? There are four main purposes of prison. Retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, and rehabilitation. Retribution is punishment for one’s wrongful acts. Incapacitation is depriving someone of their human power. Deterrence is discouraging someone by the fear of consequences. Rehabilitation is restoring someone to health. The correctional system is supposed to be a system that keeps people safe, but who are they protecting by locking Eric up? When did Eric become a criminal? Was it when he decided to live his truth?

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