"There are no monsters, I know you said, so why are they lurking under my bed?"
In a land of endless crime, real-life monsters are diabolical characters in a fable that has no end. Like bloodsucking vampires, they use the cover of darkness as a shield and camouflage in the light to catch prey. We all live with the harsh realities of crime, and when perpetrators are punished, all is well with the world again. Well, at least so it seems.
When we think of crime, we involuntarily adopt reductionist views on the narrative, characters and the story after the story. We don't give thought to life after conviction or acquittal, or even the collateral damage caused by the event. Something as pertinent as the social support needed after a convicted person leaves the system is something we rarely think about.
Regardless of your thoughts on how maleficent an offender might be, not all offences carry a life sentence. And someday, down the line, the person we believe to be a "monster" would again roam the land of the free.
No matter how much time an offender serves, the pain caused is pervasive and affects far more individuals than we think. Each victim of a crime belongs to a long list of friends and family who take on the emotional burden they face or the pain brought on by their death. When the victim is deceased, the pain is far more excruciating, especially for young children who would forever ask the question, “why?”
But there is an unsung group of individuals that we do not give a voice. A group of people whose importance we fail to acknowledge. They are the family and friends of the offender. The emotions they face may differ, but the pain is ogre sized. Being forced to accept the reality of their actions or face society with the stain of being labelled the parent or spouse of a convict is not an easy road to walk. Caught in a moral battle, some are forced to choose to continue supporting their loved ones despite the atrocity they committed or reject them like the rest of society. It's a dilemma that reveals no easy answer but one a handful of individuals must face.
There are some situations far more complex that breeds a monster of a macabre nature. How do families cope when the victim and the accused are members of the same family? How does a victim of sexual assault grapple with the non-guilty verdict of an accused who lives in her community?
Yes, we understand crime and the manner in which justice is meted out, but do we acknowledge the lack of social support systems necessary to complement the criminal justice system?
In an era where pleas and maximum sentence indications are knights in shining armour to our clogged criminal justice system, the reality remains that more and more offenders would serve time faster and re-join the free world.
But as much as we applaud the justice system and breathe a sigh of relief when a "monster" is sent away, are we doing enough to prepare them for life after prison? And what happens to those without access to the social, financial and familial support they need to function in a society that might be vastly different from the one they left behind?
Very few people would support the idea of a halfway house in their community or employing an ex-convict. And as painful as it might be for some of us to acknowledge, there is a certain level of support that should be extended to offenders to reduce their chances of re-offending.
Vision on Mission, an organisation founded by the late ex-convict Wayne Chance, has committed to assisting ex-inmates on their release to re-enter society successfully. This organisation provides a form of social support that focuses on rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-offenders, deportees and delinquent youths. One of its initiatives, the Prisoner Pre-release and Resettlement Programme, seeks to provide services needed to successfully guide participants as they leave the correctional facilities and return to society, either to their homes or to transitional housing.
In a perfect world, monsters would only exist in fairy tales, and women wouldn't be afraid to walk the streets at night. But as much as we try to ignore the issues, they would continue to spread like a cancerous plague until we pay attention. For crime is not a black and white issue; it's a multicoloured monster that must be tamed.