I take advantage of waking up early by using the surrounding stillness to take a bit of me time each morning. I spend those moments reflecting on where I am now and how far I have come. I find by doing that not only do I stay mindful of where I’m from and the life I once led, but it also helps me to stay grounded.
I try to share as much positivity as I can when talking about our criminal justice system, especially our prisons. It isn’t always doom and gloom, although another reminder from my early morning reflection exercising is the hidden sadness on the other side of the walls and fences of our prison system. It is that hidden sadness, a sadness I once shared and a sadness I also listened to, from where I get the motivation and determination to limit the sadness others feel. I’m not an abolitionist, I’m a realist, I’ve been in prison and trust me, we need a prison system.
Listening to the history of many people in our prisons would probably break your heart, however, no matter how bad the history, the criminal aspect cannot be overlooked or excused. It can mitigate the crime, but it can never excuse the crime. If we don’t place responsibility at the feet of the individual, how can we teach them to be responsible?
I would suggest that one of the major factors for crimes being committed is unmet needs. The same reason behind reoffending.
The balance between protecting the public and the reduction of reoffending has always been a one-sided affair. Yes, the public has a right to be protected. But then, who was protecting prisoner a, b, c, d……….. when they were a child, and also a member of the public, being abused or neglected? Excluded from school or placed into care and finally ending up trapped in the revolving doors of our criminal justice system. Who was protecting their rights? And yet, once they do end up trapped in the criminal justice system, the public shun them or point the finger of shame at them. Oh! by the way, I’m not trying to garner sympathy for people in prison but a bit of empathy wouldn’t go amiss.
I should also point out that I’m not playing the blame game either. However, it may not be everyone’s fault, but it should be all our responsibility. No little boy or girl asks to be born to abusive and/or neglective parents, or a predator for an uncle, or a neighbour. Adults should not ask little boys and girls to keep secrets, for any reason.
Reducing reoffending over the years has been and continues to be a costly failure, and that is simply because for far too long the focus has been on risk management and protecting the public. If we want to reduce reoffending, and on that matter offending in the first place, we first have to understand that the vast majority of people in prison were once, and some still are, victims themselves. Trauma is not a memory, it is a reaction. Through empathy, and not apathy, the earlier we can intervene and not class behaviour as ‘challenging and disruptive’ but as a cry for help, the more we can limit the future damage that unresolved trauma has the potential of creating. The more we limit the damage, the less crime we will have on our streets, the fewer people we will have in prison and therefore, fewer victims. That is how you protect the public. Through empathy and understanding that people in prison are not necessarily bad.
Adults should accept responsibility for the crimes they commit. But! We cannot expect a child to accept responsibility for their trauma. However, that child will grow into an adult. Whether they end up in prison is all our responsibility.