With no carrot and only a stick, a corrections system becomes strictly about punishment and not rehabilitation. Some in Maine believe that’s the way it ought to be, but Gov. Janet Mills now has less than two weeks to sign into law or veto a measure to take the possibility of human redemption into account.

Last Thursday, the Maine state Senate unanimously passed a bill introduced by Friendship independent Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos to create a parole study commission that would report out a bill by Dec. 1.  That bill — if passed and signed into law — would restore parole to Maine.

Evangelos was inspired to wage this campaign by the personal story of Brandon Brown, covered in various news outlets last week, who became the first incarcerated person in Maine to earn his master’s degree while in prison.

Brown has subsequently earned his doctorate in restorative justice, but the conditions of his early release, after serving 11 years for a shooting that left a man in a wheelchair, prohibit him from leaving the state to attend the ceremony at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., this spring.

I’ve written about Evangelos previously, as well the benefits of restoring Pell grants for incarcerated people, which Congress has subsequently done. But the question of parole takes us back to the whole point of the corrections system. Also, I have a unique perspective, both as the perpetrator of a crime and the victim of one.

When I pleaded guilty to failing to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, the judge looked at me and asked if I understood there was no parole in the District of Columbia, and I nodded yes. I have to admit it was a chilling moment, worse even that sitting atop the toboggan chute at the Snow Bowl and being told they have no idea whether the ice of Hosmer Pond will hold or not.

My freedom to be out of jail until sentencing was at the mercy of that judge. When my mother had a double brain aneurysm here in Maine, the judge gave me permission to come and be by her side. As I was not ultimately sentenced to prison, parole was a moot point for me, even if I noted its absence.

Last week I had dealings with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. on a different matter. They were preparing a plea offer for the man who is charged with stabbing me eight times on a sidewalk in our nation’s capital in broad daylight for no apparent reason. As I was a victim, the prosecutor sought my input in the plea, and I told him that my belief in restorative justice informs my thinking on that.

When violence is involved, I believe the question becomes trickier. We repeatedly hear about instances in big cities where suspects are released and then go on to commit equally or more violent crimes, when locking them up would have better protected society. But again, that is all pre-trial/pre-sentencing and does not impact what’s being decided now in Maine.

In cases like Brown’s, there is a decade-long period to demonstrate whether there is evidence of redemption or not. Was one a model prisoner who consistently went out of his/her way to improve the incarcerated community? If so, that counts for something. The man Brown shot supported his early release. That, too, counts for a lot in my book, having been a victim of a violent crime.

One of the past arguments prosecutors in Maine have used against restoring parole is that the hearings involve re-traumatizing the victims. Wearing my victim’s hat, I would say I’d prefer that consideration be spent keeping the streets safe. Once traumatized, no longer speaking of the incident is no real balm. Many of us reopen old wounds every day — let’s be honest.

Too many people are in prison in America today. Looking at intelligent, merciful and just ways of reducing this population and restoring individuals to a society to which they might contribute — even if it is simply through labor and paying taxes — is a public benefit. For non-violent offenders, it is a no-brainer as far as I see it.

But the violent, too, can also reform, or so we hope. The circumstances are important, and so is behavior. As Evangelos told a reporter when he introduced this bill last spring, either we believe in redemption or we don’t.

I would hate to live in a world that doesn’t.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.