Victim Awareness: A Prisoner’s Perspective

Posted: 13 March 2014 in Prisons, Understanding Others
Tags: , ,

Sycamore-Tree-Image-Goes-with-sitting-on-the-ST-story-143x200A prisoner tells of how going on PF’s victim awareness course, Sycamore Tree, helped him to figure out how to restore a relationship or make more positive choices in life. It gives a perspective on prison life too:

“Few things in prison have the capacity to make someone a better person, often it is quite the opposite. Being in prison means being cut off from the outside, removed from your family and community.

It erodes responsibility, self-respect and empathy. Often it also results in a person’s future prospects becoming worse, with major problems in securing employment and regaining a reputation. It is therefore no wonder that re-conviction rates are so high, with each subsequent prison sentence increasing a person’s chances of committing a crime.

This is my first prison sentence, and I intend it to be my last.

I have spent about six years in these places. Six years of self-pity, sorrow, regret, questioning, and final epiphany. Before this time, I was a conceited and deluded kid. I was someone who saw no intrinsic wrong in his actions.

By being financially orientated, I fooled myself into minimising my offences. At the same time, self-justification was what kept me going, without feeling any guilt. There were victims behind my crimes…people who, at the time, I gave little, if any, thought to.

I have already said how few things in prison can help someone be a better person. This course, Prison Fellowship’s Sycamore Tree course, is an exception. It builds upon existing levels of victim awareness and remorse, but most importantly it taught me just how far the effects of crime can go. In meeting a victim of crime and hearing about other offences I have gained a deep, almost painful, understanding of how emotions can last months, years, even entire lives.

When I was sentenced I knew some of my victims reported being traumatised and unable to work as tellers or cashiers for a long time. I felt a combination of regret and remorse.

Doing the Sycamore Tree course has magnified those feelings and reinforced my desire to make amends for my crimes. I’m not sure yet how that can be done, except through apologising to my victims in person (as appropriate) or by helping others from not continuing with a path of crime.

There is also something else about this course that I need to mention. Had I not done it, I would have felt bitterness and even a degree of anger on my release. This is hard to convey, but I have at, various points, looked at what has happened in my sentence and thought it unjust…

…Forgiveness is perhaps the hardest of sentiments, but also one of the most releasing. I have been able to forgive people through doing this course, and my negative feelings about ‘the system’ have dissipated. In this way I have been able to move on. Instead of looking at the past, of how so much has been taken away and destroyed, I now look to the future. There’s life and goodness out there, if you’re willing to move forward.

And I hope that at some point my victims have been able, or will be able, to forgive what I have done.”

It is worth adding that in the prison(s) I usually go into, the nature of the prison experience is more positive than described above. But the world of prisons is huge, complex, and not everything goes smoothly.

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