We have prison filled with people who haven’t told their stories

From Robert Enright

Video Interview Transcript

We have prisons that are filled with people who have stories to tell us, and they're never given a chance to tell those stories for the most part and here's what I mean. We do forgiveness therapy in prisons and the very first time we did a forgiveness therapy group in a maximum security prison with men who were all mass murderers. The therapists, I was a consultant not the therapist. The therapist asked the men, "Tell us your story of those who have hurt you." And one of the men who had shot every member of his family dead started weeping. Here's this big strong guy who had been in prison for 20 years, and he was weeping and the therapist said, "Why are you crying?". And he said nobody ever asked me that before. And they said, "Tell us your story".
Here's the story. When he was a child for punishment his father made him crawl on his hands and knees on a gravel road down to get the mail out of the mailbox and then crawl back again to the house and when he came back he was cut bruised and humiliated. And that happened over and over again. At 16 years of age when he was old enough to pick up his father's hunting rifle he shot the entire family and nobody had ever asked him about that story in prison because everyone was intent on stopping his behavior, his murderous behavior and including some of his dangerous behavior while in prison. And I find that actually typical, where there is a hope of rehabilitation of the behavior, but his behavior was an accumulation of injustice, followed by emotional pain, followed by anger, then unhealthy anger, then rage that came out in this way.
And here's what I ask myself all the time and I really ask those who will listen. What would have happened in that family if the father could have forgiven those in his past where he wasn't so angry as to have a brutal kind of exercise for his son. He thought it was discipline but it was a demeaning thing. What would have happened if that son as he was growing up knew about forgiveness and began forgiving his father. Do you know what I think would happen to this day? He would not be in prison and every one of his family members would be alive. But forgiveness was not as we say on the radar. No one thought about it and it ended tragically, with the whole family deceased and him in maximum security prison for life.

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