Stories of Bridges on This American Life

Dear Engaged Bystander: I was listening to the stories of two bridges on "This American Life" and was struck by the contrast. The first is the Yangtze River Bridge, a massive bridge in China, known for it's massive size and high suicide rate. You can read about Mr. Chen Si's blog The Bridge Diaries, where he talks about his daily walks on the bridge and trying to stop people from jumping off.

This story in China of commitment and hope (and yes, an engaged bystander) contrasts sharply with the story of the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami Florida. In Miami Florida there is a policy which prohibits sex offenders from living within 2500 feet of where children might gather. Because of this policy, there is no where else a sex offenders can live in Miami except under this bridge.

Why should you care? You can listen to the program to learn more, but simply said, when someone has no home, no job, no friends, no support network, and no stability in their life they are much more likely to re-offend. So this kind of residency restriction may feel like it can make a difference, but it has been shown to make our children and our communities less safe in the long run. And what can make a difference is having someone who watches over, supports, and holds a sex offender accountabilty for his/her actions. We don't have the equivalent of Mr. Chen Si on the Julia Tuttle Causeway -- and it would make a difference.

I have seen the equivalent in other cultures and I will highlight some in the week to come.