Offender Liaison work is designed to encourage incarcerated violent offenders to confront their own accountability in an emotionally safe context, beginning with discussions of the victim experience, trauma and post-trauma, and the widely varying and devastating impacts of violence and violation upon the innocent. The underlying objective is to help them recognize and understand aspects of the experiences of their own victims and survivors.
Failing to address head-on what offenders have done can only increase the possibility that they could do it again.
Current corrections practice often holds that the actual reasons for an offender’s incarceration remain essentially unknown and unaddressed by both security and educational staff. There are many good reasons for this. But what is needed in offenders is nothing less than a transformed awareness, which they are usually ill-equipped to bring about in themselves. Most offenders who are dealing — or not — with denial, shame, and guilt around their sometimes horrific crimes — or the shame and guilt of simply being incarcerated — require a revised sense of how and where they fit in a pro-social world. Failing to address head-on what they have done can only increase the possibility that they could do it again.
This is where personal accountability matters. Not the same as the “institutional” accountability conferred upon inmates who are simply serving out their sentences, personal accountability requires an examination of the truth and consequences of their actions, and explores ways of moving forward without denial and disassociation. “Institutional” accountability is merely punishment, with varying hope for rehabilitation; it is not the “personal” accountability that victims, survivors, and our society needs and deserves.
Offender Liaison work conducted with sensitivity can help offenders enter that territory of personal accountability, intentionally engaging them in the question of who they have hurt — and how — so that they may successfully pursue answers to such questions as “Who am I, and how do I express my remorse, and how do I make meaning from what I have done?” It is only through examining these questions and their deeper implications that offenders can truly understand how to re-enter society — whether in prison or post-release — as productive, law-abiding, and “acceptable” citizens, committed to the goal of No More Victims.