Crime lives and breathes in the shadows and is a purveyor of fear. It is sustained by secrecy and anonymity. When those who commit a crime step out of the shadows into the light of accountability and are welcomed with opportunities for redemption, we become empowered to reduce crime.
Consider this contrast, for example…
A child pockets a prized object without paying for it. In the short term there is immediate gratification.
Associated with this however, is a veil of secrecy in which the act is hidden from the world. This secret may morph into feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment. Shadows are deceptive dancers agilely avoiding the light of accountability. For this child, unintended consequences may include feelings of despair, unworthiness, or entitlement – all of which impede moral development.
As the child grows and more experiences are created, so does the shadow – unable or unwilling to divulge the secret it is protected with stories to rationalize and justify misbehavior which grow into walls. For many, these walls become prison cells of our own making, where the true self is held prisoner by the shadow.
Society achieves safety/peace through punishment. In the short term there is immediate gratification.
Associated with this however, is a veil of exclusion in which individuals are branded and isolated from society. This exclusion breeds feelings of inferiority, powerlessness, anger, and resentment. Fear is an oppressive task master standing as a barrier to redemption. For society, unintended consequences may include feelings of helplessness, blame, or paranoia – all of which reinforces victimization.
As society matures and more laws are created, so does the degree of exclusion – unable or unwilling to change, the desire for retribution diminishes forgiveness. For most, forgiveness is not possible when individuals are permanently exiled without hope for redemption or integration.
Each scenario depicts human judgment in a manner that feeds a shadow with judgment, resulting in pervasive scripts of negative self-talk and labels. Once upon a time, corporal punishment was the preferred method of moral development with children – when we exposed the veil of secrecy and began exploring alternatives, the world changed for the better. Perhaps it is time to expose the veil of exclusion as a means of empowerment.