Prisoners Of Thoughts

By Srishti Sharma

Last few days haven’t been easy. I was caught in the web of emotions and was struggling to get out. There was a lot to take in. I was posed with some very important questions; answers to which aren’t easy at all, thoughts that I had to grapple with and stories that were to be heard, felt and understood. All this and more pushed me to the quest of finding. When a person commits a crime, it not only causes harm to people, but to relationships and the community at large. Our response to crime as a community is to see the offenders getting punished for the crime. Snatching the freedom and putting the offenders behind bars seems like a just solution. For justice must be done. But, is it the end to all the problems? Will it stop people from harming other people? Probably not! How can this harm be repaired? We must reflect.

Hearing Julie R Martinez and Cheryl Kaiser really moved me and forced me to think about profound ideas of forgiveness and embracing solutions which would serve as a greater good for the society and would build peace. Lack of hope leads to many bad decisions. When a person gets trapped in the muck of violence, abuse and crime, it is difficult to find a way out. People who have themselves been victims of sexual abuse, violence or social discrimination often resort to crimes and view it as a survival tool for revenge. Who doesn’t crave structure, support or stability? But, when that’s taken away, it often leads to disturbance and displacement. Ripple effects of which can be directly seen in the social order and in destruction of peace. As a society, we must learn to separate the crime from the criminal. Cutting of the branches won’t help when the problem lies in the roots. It is important to understand that the perpetrators might be victims themselves. Restorative justice focuses on repairing the harm caused by the crime and reducing future harm. Bringing the victim and the offender face to face, requires offenders to realise the harm they have caused and for the victim to understand the offender’s state of mind. This in a way is a chance for the offenders to repair the harm they have caused as most of the times they don’t know how to get out with honour and safety even though they repent for their deeds. “She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.” When we allow a person a second chance, offer them more choices, promise them integration and reduce the lack of isolation there’s definitely a hope of a better community.  But, restorative justice, a completely different way of thinking about crime and our response to crime is not easy to accept at all and has its own challenges and limits. Do victims get compensation that is in line with their losses? Some of the crimes are very grave ad cause serious rifts. Is the damage done repairable? Isn’t it a damaging process as the victim has to relive the trauma and perhaps be manipulated to reach reconciliation? Does the offender really feels the guilt for the crime or succumbs as his fears are playing off? These are pertinent questions. Though restorative justice in many ways can help start a change, but its immediate acceptance to nature of all crimes is debatable and is a bumpy road to walk on.

It all comes down to choices in the end. It all begins and ends in the mind. We have the power to choose to forgive or to seek vengeance; the power to choose crime or compassion no matter what the circumstances are. What we give power to, has power over us. “We can be in the prison, yet be free or be outside and still be imprisoned.” The search for meaning will forever continue and when we will come to understand ourselves, we shall be free. We, the prisoners of our thoughts.

Sites DOT MIISThe Middlebury Institute site network.