Rehabilitation: Oasis, or Mirage? (Part IV)

Is it possible for a criminal to change?

Having established that crime comes from egotism, I launch on my search for the answer to this question posed to me while I was on a community outing during my prison sentence.

By Colin McGregor

What is the most unpardonable crime of all? When Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Antonio Lamer presided over the abolition of capital punishment in 1976, he said that a murderer is often a good citizen who cracks once in their life, and regrets that act forever. They are capable of being rehabilitated back into society.

But a drug dealer can kill or ruin a hundred lives or more, without feeling the least bit of remorse. They are tougher to rehabilitate.

To rehabilitate the men and women behind bars, we must first offer them occasions to be of service to others.

In a minimum security prison, this happens. We have access to the community, and day passes out. We have contact with crime victims who lead us to think about those we have harmed.

But in medium and maximum security, such opportunities are rarer. Isolated from the outside world, the inmate focusses on himself. There’s nothing but the mirror affixed to a cell wall to console you, to remind you that you exist.

I was lucky, because as a nerd with a philosophy education, the prison school and the chapel gave me opportunities to crawl out of my own self-pity. The Café Graffiti – Journal de la Rue let me write for them, which was a way out, an inestimable way to help others at a distance.

Most inmates are manual types, good with their hands, good at creating physical object but not very sociable. The illiteracy rate in federal prisons hovers around 70%.

Given that the vast majority of inmates will one day find themselves back in society, we must find ways to get them to “heal” their egotism, and show them that there are greater riches in the human spirit than in all the banks of the world.

First sen in: Reflet de Société, Vol. 27 no. 1, printemps (spring) 2019, pages 26-27.    

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