Thursday, September 17, 2009

Unforgiven

When are we forgiven? I mean in the criminal justice way, not in the religious way.

I have a new case on my docket that is horrifying in a chills your bones, make sure no one is following you, thank God for secure facilities kind of way. The kind that had me praying for strength to do the right thing.

But as I dragged myself through the history of this case, I began to wonder. When are we forgiven? Is it twenty years for a sex offender? Ten years for an attempted murder? Five years for a robbery? Three years for a forged check?

When do I look at these criminal records, sometimes as long as I am tall, and say,"That, right there--that is too long ago to worry about." Forgiven.

Since when did it become my responsibility to determine this kind of stuff? It scares the crap out of me. This entire case frightened me so much that on my way to deal with part of it, I stopped at a church for five minutes and said a little prayer. Give me the wisdom to do what is right, the courage to ask the questions that hold the key, and the compassion to understand. In other words, HELP ME.

I think the answer is forgiven, but not forgotten; rehabilitated, but not cured. History can heal, but not be erased. This is all well and fine from a philosophical point of view, but I am standing in the muddy trench where I have to determine if there is rehabilitation, or if there is another murder waiting around the corner.

How can I tell if this is all genuine contrition, real work towards setting all things right, or just... an act?

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