On Forgiveness and the Justice System

I’m currently reading a book called Between the Monster and the Saint by Richard Holloway. The book is essentially about the battles between good and evil that go through each one of us all the time.

In one of the chapters, Holloway writes insightfully on the western justice system — how it lacks an emphasis on getting the offender to acknowledge his wrong-doing while meting out its punishment:

Western justice has been good at limiting the momentum of force by institionalising its response to offenders who, in theory, are judged dispassionately in order to express humanity’s disapproval of those who turn against it. What we have paid less attention to is the trauma caused to the victim who needs, for her own re-integration after degradation, to hear the offender ‘perform’ his acknowledgement of the wrong done.

Earlier in the chapter, Holloway argues that the victim of any hurtful act has been degraded or “turned into a thing and therefore violated at the very core of her humanity”. He then goes on to say that “this is why there is a fundamental need in people who have been abused to have that fact acknowledged and proclaimed”.

I cannot stress how true I find all this. So many times I have felt hurt by words or actions, but when the person who had performed these hurtful words or actions sincerely acknowledges his or her mistake, whether or not punishment has been meted out I would feel appeased.

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