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Region: England, Wales and Northern Ireland

RE:QUEST

A space for resources to help RE teachers and their students explore the Christian faith

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Forgiveness for Offenders by the Community

Many Christians believe that the main purpose of punishment is reformation; to educate the offender, giving them an opportunity to change their ways. Part of the process of reforming an offender is to offer forgiveness, alongside giving them another chance to build their life back to the point that they become valuable members of their communities.

Forgiveness and reformation, along with reintegration into local communities, are important to many Christians. This is for spiritual and practical reasons:

  • At the heart of the gospel is humanity's redemption, through belief in Jesus who was crucified for our sins. Through accepting Jesus and repenting of their sins, Christians are able to have a second chance to live a better life. It is this principle that some Christians apply to the forgiveness of offenders. Indeed, the Bible says, 'everyone has sinned and is far away from God's saving presence.' Romans 3:23. This shows that everybody is guilty of sin, not just offenders.
  • Jesus said, 'Do not judge others, and God will not judge you; do not condemn others, and God will not condemn you; forgive others, and God will forgive you.' Luke 6:37. This shows how important it is to forgive offenders and not condemn them.
  • Reforming and reintegrating offenders into local communities can help to improve not just the individual, but also the community.
  • Reforming offenders, by education and addiction recovery support, can give them a purpose and career. This will make them less likely to re-offend, which in turn protects the community, making society more stable.

It is because of these reasons that many Christians support all efforts to reintegrate offenders into their local communities. Organisations, such as Street Pastors and the Prison Fellowship, are particularly involved in this type of social action, helping offenders to get back on their feet.

Recognise Their Mistakes

An important part of the process of reintegration into the community is the need for offenders to recognise that what they've done is wrong and to take responsibility for their actions. Sometimes this may involve apologising to their victims.

Retribution

Part of the process may also include the offender making retribution to the people they've offended against. An example of this might include many hours of community service, where they do unpaid work, for example, cleaning up local parks.

 

Support for Addiction

If an offender struggles with alcohol or drug issues, they would be offered support to break free of addiction by a number of community organisations. This helps them to tackle the problems they face, which most likely resulted in the criminal behaviour in the first place.

Education

If offenders are educated, and/or taught a vocational trade, it will give them a purpose and help to keep them away from a life of crime, which in turn protects communities. Furthermore, they will be able to make a contribution to society by sharing their skills in the communities that they live in.