I believe in having compassion for offenders, because they are also victims.
In a nation whose government was built upon an essential American attitude towards liberation and justice, this belief could be considered erroneous. In this same nation, offenders are being tagged and warehoused, and the victims’ hope to find justice is beginning to look more like an aim for revenge. This transparent vengeance leads us to question if offenders can also be considered victims.
It is the great Dr. King who once said, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”
It is so easy to glance in disgust at the criminals one see’s in the paper or on the morning news and carry on with their day as if they know that these men are not human and will be locked up in cement cells for the rest of their lives. I regret to inform you that I was one of those people, until I became involved in a workshop that would change the way I would look at offenders forever.
I attended a prison dialogue earlier this year with a few other students. Having never been to a prison, I wasn’t sure what to expect at the Maine Correctional Center. My professor often spoke of giving the men compassion, and I wasn’t sure if I could legitimately do that. “How could I give compassion to people whom I have never met let alone people who have tortured and scared many innocent lives,” I kept asking myself in the few days prior to the workshop.
Hearing the offender’s stories made me realize how much I take communication and moral support for granted. After hearing some of their family history you could tell why they had become so dysfunctional living amongst the social norm. One man in particular told us that he and his little sister were so afraid of their sexually abusing father that when his sister got off the bus after school she would wait over an hour and a half on the front porch for him to get home and escort her through their house into her bedroom.
After awhile I began to feel great compassion for the men. It is a common misconception that offenders do not feel, but they certainly do. When wrongdoers come back from their unconscious-behavioral state, most feel great remorse for what they have done.
The idea of having compassion for murderers, rapists, and thieves may leave you feeling uneasy, as if this practice seems unethical or a lost cause. However, just because I am giving perpetrators empathy does not mean I am condoning what they did. Forgiving is not excusing.
Giving a convicted felon compassion, is giving another human being a chance to live again; therefore, helping a past offender is essentially saving a potential victim, because common good can be brought out in everyone.
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