Thursday, July 31, 2014

What About the Victims?

Being incarcerated for over a decade among hundreds of criminals, there are no shortages of "victims." Even though there are innocent people here in prison, most prisoners are indeed guilty. Too many see themselves as victims of a corrupt system. They are in prison unjustly, not because they are innocent, but because their "rights" were violated. The may claim their Miranda rights weren't read to them by the police, their indictments weren't issued properly by the grand jury, or any number of other mistakes made by law enforcement or court officials. I agree that the System fails. But most importantly, it fails the true victims, those who were harmed by us, the criminals.

As someone who is guilty of murder, I am ever mindful of my own victims. Having never lost a loved one under such violent circumstances, I can only feebly attempt to imagine what they have gone through and continue to go through. I only know of the guilt I feel and the depression, anguish, and suicidal thoughts that it caused. No one deserved what I did to them. Even all these years later, I still remember the victims in the court room with their inconsolable sorrow and angry faces. Having written letters of remorse and apology with no reply, I can only assume they still have no consolation. Some say "time heals all wounds," but I know that to be untrue.

Besides my own experience, I've known guys whose parole was protested by victims twenty or thirty years after the fact. It's a tragedy that our victims have had and continue to bear that sorrow and anger for so many years. In our current Criminal Justice System, once "justice" has been done and the criminal has been punished, that's supposed to be the end of it. But it isn't. The wrong has not been righted or else there would be peace and, as much as is possible, some sort of normality restored. That is where I think we find the biggest failing of our Criminal Justice System – the victims never receive healing. Once their testimonies and mournful faces are used to prosecute us "monsters," they are left to deal with their loss on their own. Reconciliation isn't in the equation. Why? Because the offenders don't deserve it? Of course we don't deserve it. But it's not all about the offenders. There cannot be true healing without forgiveness. The victims' lives and the community remain broken and scarred.

Other countries realize that reconciliation is the best thing for both the communities and the victims. That's why they promote victim-offender reconciliation programs. It promotes offenders taking full responsibility for their actions and having them face their victims. A lot of offenders don't feel the full impact of their crimes because they don't have to face their victims after the fact, unless they go up for parole. A lot of sentences have no parole so they don't have the opportunity at all. However, if there were programs that allowed victims to confront their offenders and the offenders face their victims, then there is a chance for understanding, which leads to a hope for healing. Forgiveness, remorse and responsibility are hard and take much work. Victims need answers, and there are programs available to help them get them.

Why isn't the Justice System pursuing reconciliation? Why do we as a society insist on rejecting the notion of forgiveness and continue to pursue mere retribution? Everyone to some degree knows how refusing to forgive someone causes anger and bitterness and robs us of peace. How much turmoil have we experienced and how many sleepless nights have we had when we refused to forgive someone for something? We know forgiveness would be the best thing. It's hard especially when harm and violence had been caused. It will take time and work, but it will be worth it. Victims deserve healing. They need it. Isn't it about time we as a society do what’s best?

by Joshua

1 comment:

  1. I just wonder how our justice system came to be? How is it possible for people to play God and decide other's fate in these situations? And in such cases where one family loses a member to murder, you have to realize another family has lost a member to the system as well. When these offenders come up for parole, the angry, vengeful family members essentially keep another's family member locked away. How is that justice? It's so unfair for that family who has to watch their flesh and blood waste away behind cold walls and bars. If we are playing God... What is so Godly about a 'life for a life'?