- Number one, they cannot control the clock. You will eventually get out (unless you are doing actual life in prison, which means you only have one option of personal power).
- Number two, they cannot control what you choose to think - you control your mind, it does not control you - choose good thoughts - they manifest your future! No matter what is going on or being said to you, you can 'choose' to have a positive and motivated internal dialogue at all times. It takes effort, but I can assure you, that this makes jail a far better place to be, and has the added bonus of being a form of prayer, so heaps of good things seemingly randomly appear and bless you, even in jail!
Restorative Justice is a term used to describe the process of potential healing between victims and perpetrators. In the words of CNN's Van Jones, "It aims to heal the hurt".
A number of issues arise when you talk about justice.
The victims may just want retribution, and depending on where they are at on their own personal journey and particularly their spiritual beliefs, the deep set feeling and even the idea of forgiveness, may be too much to deal with.
For the convicted inmate they may feel sorrow for what they have done, combining with self-hatred that if left unchecked can be the catalyst for future offending. Some offenders convince themselves of their innocence and refuse to take responsibility for their actions. There can be misconstrued hierarchical orders in prison. These levels of 'prestige' are generally based on the type of crime and may be part of an inmate seeing their crime as an achievement. A perpetrator who has committed a particular criminal act, may in some cases find support from their in-prison peers for an 'in crime', reinforcing and supporting damaging belief systems. The trouble is that these 'supporters' are unlikely to assist the inmate to take a path of inner growth or to find focus on their ability to have a positive purpose and contribution to society. And as with all dark sides, when things get difficult, you are often left stranded on your own with no supporters at all, wondering about the crew whom you thought were your mates.
A common trait for the prisoner who does not want to take any self-responsibility and possibly holds deep shame about their own crime/s, is to target others with gossip and/or hatred. This projection is all too common, and it is the author's experience that the louder an inmate yells about others being informers and so on, is in the majority of cases, an alarm bell about the character who is doing all the yelling.
Forgiveness is the foundation to heal the hurt, and yet even forgiveness has so many sides to it.
For the victim, if they come to a place of forgiving the perpetrator, it is often none of the inmate's business, and may be more about the victim going through their personal healing process. If the victim has the opportunity to confront the perpetrator, then the situation is different, they may choose to openly forgive them. This can, under the right circumstances, be an incredibly healing process for both parties.
For the convicted inmate, self-forgiveness is the first step to shifting their behaviour. An acknowledgement of the destruction and hurt created is important, followed by the need to forgive themselves completely and somehow find a way to identify with the positive inner aspects that they have. Guilt is a dangerous emotion that eats away at individuals and feeds the cycle of reoffending. A far greater emotion is regret, for deep regret tied to self-forgiveness and an action plan for positive new steps, is a healthy way to process and move forward. The inmate who forgives themselves and realises that they do have many positive aspects and finds a purpose for their life, will be well on their way to creating self-fulfilling opportunities in their future, with far greater chances of staying out of prison.
If an inmate has the opportunity to meet their victim, then the inmate really needs to get real with themselves. Too many times drugs, hard family life and so on, are used as crutches to partially or fully justify behaviours. Whilst there may well be some truth in this, it is not helpful for the victim to see anything less than the inmate taking full responsibility for their actions. In the end, regardless of their background, an inmate focussed on self-responsibility is again in a place where positive growth and change has a greater chance to come from.
Hatred on the part of either party is unhealthy. For the victim it does not make things better and can lead to health issues, as well as not sending out anything beneficial to the Universe, which deep down most of us know comes back around on some level. For the inmate, self-hatred will eat away at them and reinforce their lack of worth, which is one of the fundamental underlying reasons for reoffending.
It is our hope that both offenders and victims find forgiveness for themselves and others and that somehow there can be a healing of the hurt and the most positive outcome available under the circumstances.
Finally, whilst retribution feels like a normal thing, please consider the wise words of Chief Seattle, a great Native American Indian who once said: “Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”
The prison system is having people return to prison within two years all over Australia and in many parts of the world. Between 40% and 60% of inmates return to prison… Why is this happening?
When you go into prison there needs to be an induction where inmates receive the right information, the right knowledge and the right techniques to be able to, in a sense, program themselves to do jail in ways that benefit themselves, their family, the community and the jail environment.
When an inmate does a program to address their offending behaviour part way through the sentence or at the end of their sentence, this is failing to address a critical part of human behaviour. That is, the habits we create at the beginning of a prison sentence and carry on throughout a prison sentence are fundamentally how we will act and behave in society.
An induction at the beginning of a sentence or a period of incarceration has a huge opportunity to fill the inmate with positive knowledge and techniques that actually work. What needs to occur as well though, is a support system for the inmates and their families or supporters for these loving connections are proven ways to facilitate lasting behavioural change.
A cornerstone of what makes for a successful jail time is to have the right resources and then the onus is on an inmate to implement them by doing the internal work on a daily basis throughout their incarceration. Well trained staff could follow up on this regularly.
A huge situation with inmates is the lack of continuity. This has three aspects:
- Continuity at the inmate’s personal level with the connection of different departments at all stages of an inmate’s life as they journey through the justice system.
- Love and the feeling of being loved, which gives an inmate a stronger identity; therefore, a far sturdier foundation to do their inner work.
- The inmate will however, have to forgive themselves, forgive others and circumstances, and learn to realise their potential. They specifically need to learn to love and support themselves, as most inmate’s core issue is self-hatred.
Any inmate may feel some loving support from guards in the prison system, but then a lot of the time they won’t. And then inmates may feel some loving support through the parole process, but then a lot of times they won’t feel that at all. If a system can be designed where an inmate feels supported at the beginning of a sentence, throughout the sentence, through the parole process, including the family and supporters being involved - then the inmate is likely to feel a continuity of support and in a sense being loved for who they are, not for what they’ve done in the past, and being loved for their potential.
It is our hope that corrections systems around the world realise this fundamental situation and shift towards a model that relies on “continuity of loving support” throughout an inmate’s journey in and out of the system.
Without this, we will continue to manifest reoffending.
We have a chance to co-create men and women who can be positive contributors to society. People we would all like as our neighbours.
Brent Ovalsen & Kathy Craig
If you are entering prison for the first time, you will think that you have some idea of what you are going to face - surely those prison TV shows have some truth in them...
What TV fails to share is the psychological drama that plays out in the minds of all inmates.
Something bad happens, you argue on the phone with your wife - it suddenly feels far worse than it really is!
Something good happens, you have a great visit with your wife and receive loving mail that she dropped off to you - it suddenly feels far greater than it really it is!
These heightened emotions are a real issue in prison, for if they are left unchecked, they pave an emotional pathway of mega highs and mega lows, without any real equilibrium.
Equilibrium is something that all inmates are better served to strive for. When we find a sense of balance in prison, then this translates to our life when we get out in the real world.
If you are heading into prison, or if you are already in there, make a promise to yourself, to become the observer of your emotions, and to reign them in slightly where possible. Observe the highs, enjoy them sure, but make sure you don't get so high that you then crash down hard. Prison life is enough of a journey without creating your own extra internal drama.
If you are struggling, try reading one of my books or reach out, write me a letter. I may respond or if it is part of your destiny, you could even get a visit from me :)
Stay bright, stay strong, and remember that any emotion you are experiencing will pass. Everything changes - even in prison, energies in a particular prison unit change. The guards change. Life changes always - so aim for better changes, brighter changes and have a good day each day because you choose to! Always fall back to the simple remedy that you control what you choose to think and these thoughts ultimately manifest your destiny both in prison and in the future when you are released!