Tuesday, March 28, 2006

From Personal Experiences

On 23 March I was privileged to listen to two ex-offenders provide a brief presentation of their offending background followed by some pros that they had written describing their personal experiences in life and their journey of change. Both men were members of Vita Nova, an arts group based in Bournemouth, working in an inspirational way to help offenders forge new lives.

Each in their respective way vividly expressed their thoughts on life and how it had impacted upon them. They talked about their offending behaviour, their victims, previous contact with impersonal people, about social intolerance, being marginalised and abused with the ultimate drama in their lives driven by a sense of worthlessness and fear of life and what was happening to them. Importantly, they highlighted the essential need to rediscover themselves by becoming part of something tangible, enabling them to develop their personal belief systems, confidence and spiritual growth, establishing goals and having the support and opportunities to “mix it with other people” and to become accepted within society.

The provision of accommodation and employment has been promoted as essential to the process of reducing re-offending. Whilst undoubtedly important, surely the basic human and emotional needs alluded to by these men are even more critical if they are to be capable of holding down a job and managing their lives in the future. Only by recognising and providing for these essential needs will we be able to reduce the levels of re-offending. Apart from the notion of another ‘wake up call’, punishment alone will not suffice.