I Deserved To Be Punished, But Why Can’t I Be Forgiven?

I remember reading a story about how the people in one African village respond to the bad deeds of others. Interestingly, in that Village, when someone commits a crime or a sin, that person is placed in the middle of a circle and the villagers tell all of the great things about that particular man or woman. That was a very long time ago and I never forgot that story. When you are a person who has been publicly persecuted for a crime you yearn for public forgiveness. You yearn to have the

good in you reinforced by the people in your family and community.

Many people believe that the only difference between people who go to prison and the people who don’t is the fact that some get caught and others don’t. On that note, it would behoove us to remember that those of us who go to prison and return to society are more like the rest of society than we are different.

I am not one of those people who think nobody should ever go to prison. I have been one to take responsibility for my actions, knowing that my own choices were the cause of the consequences I had to face over 18 years of incarceration and during this reentry process. I don’t blame my environment. However, I do recognize that certain circumstances impacted my character, behavior and choices. In my case prison worked for me in that being removed from my environment enabled me to rehabilitate, reform and develop my potential.

I don’t believe that I could have ever served enough time to compensate for what I have done in my past. I am just grateful that the Creator and the powers that be forgave me and saw fit to give me a second chance to be a part of society. It is my second coming, as if I have been born again.

Desmund Tutu, the former South African Archbishop, has a book entitled, No Future Without Forgiveness. That is true for the offender who must forgive him/herself over and over again. It is true for the community who must forgive in order to truly embrace the Returning Citizen after incarceration. Most importantly, it is true for the restoration and reunification of the family. There has to be genuine forgiveness for the abandonment, shame and heartache suffered. Sometimes this too must happen over and over again. Desmund TuTu and his peers said something profound when they set out to restore the Nation of South Africa: “Hate sin, not the sinner. Hate crime, not the criminal.” If we live by this adage we will undoubtedly increase the chances of Returning Citizens finding their place in their families, community and societies.

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About Lashonia Etheridge-Bey

Lashonia Etheridge-Bey is a Public Speaker who can candidly and articulately speak to the consequences of youth violence, the effects of incarceration and the challenges of reentry into society. Read Lashonia's Full BIO Here 


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