Man Rescues Baby Girl; Still Can’t Lose ‘Ex-Con’ Status

Media coverage shows high price of a second chance for men and women who've done time

By Carla Murphy Jun 19, 2014

"An ex-con who turned his life around after spending a decade in federal lockup for drugs is being hailed as a hero after he saved a 15-month-old girl who wandered away from home to the edge of a Georgia highway." That’s the first sentence of an NBC News story that’s helped draw national media attention to Bryant Collins and, according to the local station that first reported his story, given him "newfound fame." But this feel-good story feels all wrong. Collins appears to be receiving national attention not just for rescuing a baby but for also acting out of character. 

"Hero Ex-Con Bryant Collins Was Wayward Baby’s Saving Grace," reads the NBC News headline repeated in other outlets like Huffington Post. That and the story imply that Collins’ criminal past directly bears on his decision last Friday to help an infant. By his own admission, Collins manufactured cocaine and went to prison. It bears stating: Doing time for drugs is not the same as leaving the human family–which is the definition of not stopping to rescue an unaccompanied baby crawling by the side of the road. Why frame Collins’ story as though he’s done something extraordinary for an ex-con? 

More than 700,000 men and women leave our prisons and jails every year. Their price of re-admission into society, for putting an end to the stigma they face, can’t be something as extraordinary but also so basically human as stopping a baby from toddling onto a highway. Having done the time, a steady job, maybe even regularly paying taxes–just like everyone else–should suffice.

It’s worth noting that not every outlet focused on Collins’ criminal history. Some focused on the present-day act. "Hero Stops To Rescue Baby Crawling Along Georgia Highway," reads the headline in People.