Should ex-offenders be given a second chance in society? Taylorian Isabel gives her opinion.
Imagine this: You see a person walking on the streets who was once broadcasted on the news for committing a crime a few years ago, how would you react?
Any ordinary person’s first reaction may be to avoid the person and feel scared. The societal perception of ex-offenders usually is that they’re a threat to the population’s safety. It’s hard to accept ex-offenders into society again as some people may think it’s unfair for lawbreakers to roam freely. Furthermore, the law might not be taken seriously by the people, seeing as there aren’t any consequences which in return could increase crime rates.
Early January 2022, a 19-year-old teenager was being punished by waterboarding for stealing money from a mosque before he was sent to the police station. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail and an RM4,000 fine by the Selayang Magistrate's Court.
It was later revealed by the teen’s lawyer that he did so to buy medicine for his grandfather as no one else offered to help him when he reached out. The teen who now lives with his grandfather in his 70s is also the eldest of three siblings whose parents have been divorced.
A few days after the original sentence, The High Court revised his sentence to replace it with compulsory community service at the mosque for 120 hours over a period of six months.
Upon learning this issue, this question then came to my mind — do ex-offenders deserve a second chance?
Well, there are several factors that we can consider to determine this such as the nature of the crime as well as the intention of the offence — why was the crime committed? In the case of the teenager mentioned, I do think he deserves a second chance because his intention was to save his poor family’s desperate condition and didn’t mean harm to anyone.
Sometimes, people are influenced by their families and friends to do something they’re not comfortable with or may have grown up in poor conditions that affect their judgment and choices in life. Not everyone is privileged to decide where and how their environment is. This itself sets the less privileged at a disadvantage as they’ve nowhere else to go.
In my opinion, if past offenders don’t or no longer display violent tendencies, show genuine remorse, or if they acted in self-defence, they definitely deserve a second chance, but this of course depends on the nature of their crimes. For instance, in the case of Cyntoia Brown, an American author who was sex-trafficked and was sentenced to life imprisonment for shooting a man in the act of self-defence and was, at that time, a minor, definitely deserves a second chance for the circumstances she was put in.
For petty crimes, like a teenager shoplifting from a store, trespassing, etc, I think these people do deserve a second chance if they’re willing to be rehabilitated and/or if they had a good reason for committing the offence. By giving these past offenders a new beginning, we help them to reconcile with society.
On the contrary, people like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Epstein definitely don’t deserve another chance and should be kept away from further inflicting harm on society.
I’ve also interviewed some Taylorians and some agreed that people with a criminal history should be allowed to redeem themselves. People who agreed mentioned that the offender was perhaps not mature enough or was under bad influence when the offence was committed.
“I feel like many people would disagree but I believe they do deserve as offenders could show remorse and I’m sure there’s a better way to teach them a lesson instead of punishing them,” Lim Chen Woon from Foundation in Science said.
To help them get back on their feet, they could be rehabilitated through therapy sessions or support groups. Instead of punishments, they could give back to society by doing supervised community work.
A celebrity who not only agrees but went further to show that people can turn over a new leaf is Gordon Ramsay. After getting arrested in 1993 for behaving indecently in a public toilet, he set up a Prison Bakery in 2012 for London inmates called the Bad Boys Bakery to help inmates gain experience so that they’re able to get a job upon release.
On the other hand, I think criminals who display psychopathic tendencies don’t deserve a second chance because many often don’t show any normal emotions including guilt or sympathy. This isn’t just a mental illness that can be healed through therapy sessions.
Those who disagreed with giving past offenders a second chance pointed out that offences that inflict trauma on victims can’t be repaid through money or punishments.
Furthermore, the ex-offender could still be harmful to society and re-offend even if punished. They should’ve known the consequences of their actions. It also wouldn’t be unfair to the victims or the families of those harmed.
“They definitely don’t deserve another chance as there’s a possibility that offenders could re-offend even if punished,” Mariah Dania from SACE international expressed.
Despite the differing opinions, what’s more important is that many don’t realise, as a community, we can come together to help prevent further crimes from happening. Through education, campaigns, and government policies, we can raise awareness for crime prevention.
Besides that, communities can create a safe space for the marginalised and provide assistance to those in need so that they don’t turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms or crimes. In Malaysia, there are communities for ex-convicts to reach out to and gain support such as the Malaysian Care Organisation. It’s important for them to know that it’s not too late to change their lives. And it starts with us lending a helping hand.
So, do you think ex-offenders deserve a second chance?
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