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On being both victim and offender

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In the Irish Times of Wednesday 22 August, Fr Peter McVerry SJ addresses what he sees as a misunderstanding of the causes of crime, and how to respond to offending behaviour. While most of us have been victims of crime… and in many cases been upset and even traumatised by the episode, our response has been to seek retribution rather than to understand the causes of crime.

McVerry’s main point is that “discussion on crime generally presupposes a distinction between the offenders and the victims of crime: “them” and “us”. However, most of us are both victims and offenders.”

When we look at the life experience of people in prison, we find that most have been neglected by our schools, health-care and housing services. In fact many are victims of serious crime, including sexual abuse and institutional abuse. Response to crime needs to focus on rehabilitation, redressing deficiencies in public services and new discourse on whom we see as the offender.

Peter McVerry SJ is a member of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice team. He will be speaking at the Centre’s conference Re-imagining Imprisonment in Europe, Trinity College Dublin, September 5th-7thSeptember 2012. For information visit: www.jcfj.ie/scribani-conference.