Prison experiences of self forgiveness
Aug 30, 2012
Crime challenges communities; criminal activity is an assault on civic society – individuals who break the law are deemed to have stepped outside of society. Yet prison as a response to crime can also be read as an assault on community; often those imprisoned were never fully integrated into society.
The experience of prison in Ireland has been one of building expansion at the cost of any real investment in rehabilitative or re-integrative measures.
A ‘typical’ prisoner in Ireland is broadly similar to those in the rest of the Western world; young, urban, undereducated males from the lower socio- economic classes - dependent on alcohol or opiate drugs, with psychiatric problems from disturbed family backgrounds. Imprisonment does little to re-integrate those who are already marginalised.
This paper reports on a two year ethnographic study that followed 200 Irish prisoners from two prisons as they engaged with a new mentoring programme that attempted to reintegrate them into community. A key finding is how acts of forgiveness (self forgiveness and forgiveness by the community) are core to building and bridging the reintegration of ex-prisoners.
Prison Experiences of Self Forgiveness emerged through careful re-readings of the prisoner and ex prisoner stories. This paper suggests evidence that Forgiveness is a two way process which is deeply important to the experience of (ex)-prisoners’ narratives of redemption, and the associated rewards of self healing and communal forgiveness.