How to Help Criminal Offenders Discover the True Cost of Illegal Behaviors
Societies have worked for ages on the issue of what to do with those members who do not play by the rules. Politicians, clergy, justice system workers, and concerned citizens have tried plan after plan after plan to try to harness the best plan of action for dealing with our population of offenders. Unfortunately, these efforts have not met with the long-term successes expected at inception. And so we continue on.
Among those offering and designing these elaborate (and not so elaborate) educational plans of action, there appears an errant belief. It is commonly held that people commit crimes because they don’t know what is right from what is wrong.
Considering that those in the planning phases typically are those who could not fathom committing crimes against another human being, this seems to be a logical (and somewhat tangible) belief. Coming from this perception, the answer must be that these offenders simply haven’t been taught or don’t understand right and wrong, and good and bad. The truth, as is so often the case, is not that simple.
The fact is, less than 10 percent of offenders are unaware of the difference between right or wrong. Statistically, that means that 90 percent of our offender population DOES know that what they did was wrong.
That can be a tough pill to swallow for those educators who are charged with bringing about rehabilitation. In order to meet the needs of these students, we must come to grips with the fact that every one of them made a conscious behavior choice. They chose to commit the crime and then justified it using personal reasons that basically come down to a “my needs come first” mentality. That fact alone requires that a different spin be put on the educational programs used for this population. It requires that we take an in-depth look at our audience in order to develop plans and programs that meet their needs rather than ours.
Discovering the True Costs of Criminal Behaviors
The combination of factors leading to any decision are as unique as the person facing the decision. For the offender, however, the true cost of an action is likely not weighed. So, when all factors are put together in a combustible situation, these individuals chose to walk down a specific path — the wrong one. We have to begin a positive rerouting of these choices by helping them calculate the costs of their actions in real terms, both in the short and long run.
The starting point for this consequence calculation has to be the individual values held by the offender. We have to find out what is at the core of their value system. If we start by taking a look at temperament, we will begin to see some patterns.
One pattern we are acutely aware of is we are dealing with a population that is inherently out-of-esteem. We need to begin to work within their value system: action for Oranges, competency for Greens, concern for Blues, and order for Golds. When we target each individual based on his or her values, we can begin to get to the inside issues: What are your goals? How are you going to reach them?
We need to address the issues from a first-person standpoint:
- What is the cost of your actions in your own life?
- By committing the crime, are you now closer or farther from your goal?
- Assuming that you will be happy when your goal is reached, can you be happy committing crime?
This needs to be the focus of character education for offenders. They need to know how to measure the long and short-term costs of their actions so that the next time they come to a crossroads, they will be more likely to choose the right path.