Tomorrow begins April, a time of renewal both in terms of the seasons and the spirit. Just as the Christians have Easter, the Jews have Passover and the Muslims Navruz. Universally, it’s a time of the year we open our minds to new possibilities. And that is one reason why I consider April to be Second Chance Month.

One of the organizations for which I volunteer began to formalize Second Chance Month in 2017, a year before my eyes were opened to how essential this can be. The collateral effects of imprisonment come into focus at this time. Consider the case of Barabbas, who’d been convicted of treason against the Roman Empire and was sentenced to die on the cross alongside Jesus, for the same crime.

Barabbas, we learn from scripture, was spared execution. This was not by dint of anything he’d done to deserve the stay, but simply by grace.

The United States leads the world in terms of the percentage of our own citizens we send to prison. In the early 1980s, roughly 250,000 sat in prisons, yet today the total is closer to 2.5 million — a tenfold increase in a generation and a half. Certainly there are those whose deeds demonstrate a real and continuing danger to society. But there are also many languishing behind bars who do not.

The 1994 crime bill played a big role in growing our incarcerated population. Mandatory minimum sentences, “three strikes” to life, and other provisions drummed up by politicians on both sides of the aisle wanting to appear tough on crime drove the creation of a private prison industry to meet the new wave of convicts resulting from this sweep.

The case for revisiting how we imprison people in America is so steeped in logic that it is impossible to ignore. One-fifth of our country is touched by the corrections system. Given the labor shortages our economy faces today, the stigmatization of citizens returning from having served prison sentences amounts to self-sabotage. There are jobs to fill, but so long as there are hearts set on punishment, many will remain vacant.

Welcoming these returning citizens with some meaningful role in society is perhaps the best remedy for recidivism. After all, engaged citizens are less likely to commit antisocial acts. Not to mention the abundant humility many returning citizens bring to a world that thirsts for it.

But the logical case for criminal justice reform runs next to a parallel argument that is moral, and bigger than logic alone. There, but for the grace of God, go I. Along these lines, justice demands a willingness to forgive. Today there is much talk about who ought to be in prison, and, indeed, some should be. After the sentence is served, do we have the moral strength to forgive?

Last month I wrote to Gov. Janet Mills via the state’s online platform for proclamation requests to ask that she name April to be Second Chance Month this year. It is not unprecedented; former state Sen. Eric Brakey got it commemorated as such in 2017. Yet Mills did not respond; nor did my local state rep and senator when I wrote them asking for their support.

People who have dealt with Mills on criminal justice reform matters tell me her views here are influenced entirely by her past work as a prosecutor. I wanted to believe differently, but suppose my sources are correct.

It doesn’t take an official proclamation, though, to open your heart. This month, please give a moment’s thought to what real renewal and regeneration can mean to a society that can benefit from reform. It is the lesson of Barabbas, based not on logic or merit, but on inner moral strength.

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