Punishment and Redemption
Third place winner, Non-fiction, Heard/Alexandria Detention Center writing contest, August, 2019
When I first began thinking about issues of criminal justice, I had imagined that the problem was a lack of effective, humane, and beneficial alternatives. I was wrong. Alternatives that contribute to the heath and healing of criminals, victims, and the larger society are currently in use around the world, and hand has been available for centuries.
The primary problem is not an absence of viable alternatives to our current punitive response, but rather a problem of knowledge and of will. The average citizen is unaware of the alternative, in large measure due to the systematic refusal on the part of those in control to inform them. As a consequence, there seems to be no alternative but to punish.
Given the fear and anger that average citizens harbor, their punitive response is both understandable and predictable. The tragedy is that many in power who do know of the alternatives have chosen to ignore them and instead to pander to the fears and prejudges of the masses. Ignoring all the evidence that something better is available, they operate instead out their desire to get even, and in doing so contribute to a broader spirit of punishment. Politicians and the media have lulled many people into thinking that there is only one way to deal with criminals: “Lock them up and throw away the key.”
Restorative justice, according to Jonathan L. Chambers, brings, “Victims, offenders, and the community together with government and repairing injuries caused by crime.” This brand of justice emphasizes on repairing all of the injurie parties including victims, offenders, and the community. I completely understand that all the relationships among the parties implicated in the circle of crime are in need of healing and retortion according to Van Ness, Restorative Justice.
When men and women are released from prison, they return to a society that views them with fear, anger, and suspicion. The public fears that those who are released will return to the old ways that led the, to prison in the first place. It is not an unfounded fear, as over half of those released commit crimes for which they are rearrested, convicted, and IMPRISONED.
The recidivism rate in our nation is astoundingly high, leading some analysts to refer to prison as a “revolving door” through which the same people often pass two, three, or more times. This is not surprising for prison is not a place of punishment. Rather than being prepared for a new way of life, most men and women in prison are simply biding their time until they get out. The Alexandria Adult Detention Center has welcomed some of the best programs contributed to a successful reentry back into society, programs being, Sober Living, Thinking for a Change, G.E.D.O.A.R., Life Learning, ESL, Anger Management, Life Skills, CSB Home Planning, Mental Health, ATSSA Flagger Certification Training Corse.
These inside net-work groups are in place to give. The returning ex-offender the tools for a successful transition and reentry back to society and a wealth of knowledge, friendships, and program resources, linking people on the inside with the people on the outside. The gap separating those on the inside from those on the outside is almost as insurmountable as the gap that separated the rich man and Lazarus, stereotypes, misunderstandings, cultural differences, fears, prejudice, and ignorance all stain the tenuous relationships.
Building a relationship that can survive for the long haul is an important task that takes time, patience, and understanding. Everyone will face opportunities and closed doors, but possibility is available, we are given the opportunity to welcome the resources provided though reentry. While it is never ours to know the end of the story, the experience of many is that when hospitality and supports are provided, a new life flourishes. I can name a number of men and woman who are living productive, loving lives because they have received the hospitality of a loving network community. Speaking of the conversation of the criminal justice system inevitably involves us in public policy.
While it is impossible to legislate mortality, it is certainly possible to create public policies that either enhance or impede justice, truth and goodness. One cannot expect radical conversation though public policies developments alone, of course since public are the product of debate and comprise. The best I can hope to do is to set a direction that, overtime result in a fundamental paradigm shift from a punitive to a restorative goal.
Our current polices are in need of fundamental conversation. There are a number of policy issues that must be addressed. Finally, our society must come to terms with the necessity of appropriate training for criminal justice, especially jail personal, prison guards, and probation and parole staff, are hired without sufficient regard to their motivation. To their capacity for human interaction with persons whom they guard or supervise, there motivational skills to deal with difficult persons in challenging circumstances. Just as the prisoners need training in alternatives to violence, conflict management and human interaction, so too the criminal justice personal. Criminal behavior among juveniles and adults in America, is often linked to the behavior of the generation before them the criminal activity of their parents, grandparents, and care takers. Parents are a child’s primary source of learning. So when parents display deviant behaviors, their children are likely too adopt similar kinds of behavior.
Children adopt some behavior patterns that are characteristic of the larger culture. Despite the fact that many children never intend to choose a life of crime, they are often drawn in to such a life as a result of negative influences, behaviors and lifestyle.
Furthermore, the criminal activity of each succeeding generation tends to be more violent. Our youth are contending with hard-core problems and failing critical behavioral decisions at an age when they are terribly vulnerable to outside pressures. Most young adolescents seem to be lacking a clear sense of themselves, and proper upbringing, such as myself, I ended searching for identity via trial and error. Breaking the chains starts with me, for me and my family and it starts now.
God the Father and the Holy Spirit, (Chaplin Contee,
(Pastors of the Life Learning Program
(Discipling Ministry Group
(-Inmate Services- L. Erven, G. Wright, Mr./Mrs. Stubble Field
(R. Harrison, K. Sofnia
(- Mental Heath Staff
(- O.A.R, Mr. Phil and Mr. Mustfa