The punishment after punishment


Al-Jazirah newspaper

A PRISONER completes his sentence term whatever his crime might be. After leaving prison, he finds all doors closed before him. How can we expect him to reintegrate into society, leave his past behind and turn a new page when he is rejected by one and all when they discover his past? What can he do if society is not accepting him?

Furthermore, both public and private sectors are reluctant to employ him. Surely, he will remain unemployed. Most probably he will return to his “bad ways”, which was the cause of his imprisonment in the first place. This is mostly the case in drug-related cases.

A person repents but society does not accept his repentance so long as he is denied a job in private or public firms. The majority of establishments can find out the past of a candidate with the help of a computer and whether he has a criminal record or not. Hence, I suggest that the kind of offenses that can be looked up in the computer by employers be reconsidered so that the misdemeanors and minor crimes a person has been convicted of do not remain a stigma to isolate him from society even after his repentance and prevent him from reintegrating into his community. Such a social stigma usually causes him to relapse. He does not find anyone who welcomes him except his former companions. This is usually the case with many youngsters.

It is well known that being jailed is a harsh punishment restricting a person’s freedom with the objective of correcting and amending his wrong conduct. All the programs being provided in this connection aim to create a new person who can interact with his community and contribute to building it after completing the punishment period specified by the judge.

The exit gate through which a prisoner leaves after serving his jail term must be closed behind him once he leaves. His conviction and punishment should become a thing of the past and he should come out of the prison as a new person to begin a new life.

Unfortunately, he will not be able to turn a new page as long as he finds his past haunting and dogging him wherever he goes. In this case, he will not only have served his specified jail term but all his life he will live in the prison of his society that is rejecting and ostracizing him for a mistake he committed and which has repented for. It is high time we accept that it is just human nature to make mistakes. What is more important is to learn from our mistakes and get over the past to a bright present.

I believe the National Committee for the Care of Prisoners and the Released Prisoners has a big role to play regarding this important issue. It ought to contribute to erasing the stigma from those who have served their sentences so that they can return to their communities as normal people.