Second chances?

Back in March 2013, I produced a play by Edward Bond called OLLY’S PRISON, starring a tremendous Manuel Cauchi in the lead role. The Centre of the play was one unequivocal question. 

Does Society in general accept a prisoner, guilty of his crime, to be reintegrated into society after he has served his sentence?

I would like to think ‘YES!’ I would like to think we are a forgiving society ready to give a reformed felon his second chance. Sadly, this hardly ever seems to be the case.

I strongly believe that a person goes to jail not only as a punishment for his crimes but also for reformation. I believe that the emphasis should be on reformation rather than punishment, otherwise the sentence just becomes an exercise in exacting revenge on the criminal; with society begging for its proverbial pound of flesh.

I believe that the emphasis should be on reformation rather than punishment, otherwise the sentence just becomes an exercise in exacting revenge on the criminal.

This was the case with Ched Evans back in 2013. The Welsh star, then on the books of Sheffield United, was found guilty of rape (in a mistrial with the sentence being eventually overturned) and served his sentence. When he got out of jail, and had clearly shown he was sorry for his mistakes, he was refused a club to play with. Someone in the Maltese scene got the idea to invite him to play for a local club. I remember the furore back then, with even former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat expressing himself against the idea. I remember taking to Facebook to argue that the furore was misplaced and that the player deserved a second chance at life.

Many sanctimonious online trolls took me to task arguing that we can’t allow children have a rapist as a role model. While I agree with this to a certain extent, I ask, even now, the same trolls whether having a convicted felon, who has served his sentence and reformed, would be an acceptable option. To my mind, it would be. It would show our troubled youths (and those living in a less distressed life) that there is always hope. It would show them that while reformation would not wash the sins away, it would at least offer them hope to return to their former lives and get a second chance to prove themselves worthy to society.

I would like to stress that this was a football player we were talking about, not a politician. As far as I know, being a football player is not the same as holding office.

And so I come to my argument. There are those among us who make mistakes. Yes, some mistakes are worse than others, but mistakes they are just the same. Some of these mistakes are heinous crimes. Others are just petty crimes committed to enable some addiction. Should the perpetrator keep paying the consequences for their whole life? Are second chances an option?

Let me take to cases. The first is the above mentioned Ched Evans case. Yes, he was convicted of rape. He served his sentence and reformed. Did he deserve to be given the cold shoulder by most clubs and risk not playing football ever again? 

Let me now take the notorious Bulger murderers – Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. They tortured and killed a young child just for kicks. Do they deserve a second chance?

I am afraid I don’t have clear cut answers. I would still argue in favour of Ched Evans but when it comes to the Bulger murderers, I have questions. Of course, however, society MUST attempt to reform these two murderers. Whether they reform is another story.

But I ask you. If we are unable to forgive a criminal, guilty of petty crime, then do we really live in a compassionate society?

This applies to the many foreigners at Corradino, found guilty of crime. Many argue we should send them back to their original country. But some of them are only guilty of having protested for better conditions of life, some were thieves to support themselves or their families . . .  I ask again, are we truly compassionate?

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