The Accountability Project

The Accountability Project is designed to bring offenders to a clearer understanding of the impacts of crime and other life-affecting behaviors upon victims, and to enable a more personal sense of accountability among them.

The Accountability Project is an initiative designed to bring offenders – whether convicted and incarcerated, or sanctioned in other ways — to a clearer understanding of the impacts of crime and other life-affecting behaviors upon those who have identified themselves as having been victims of these offenders. It is also intended to enable a much more real and personal sense of accountability among offenders. This is an idea not always easily accepted by those who are not used to taking responsibility for their actions and behaviors, or who tend to blame others — people or circumstances — for what they themselves have done. Being accountable requires a level of honesty and self-reflection that may not come easily to many offenders, nor is it generally well supported by many inmates in the prison population. But personal accountability can help offenders transform their thinking about denial, evasion, and minimization into a commitment to integrity and honest intention by facing the past and re-framing the future.

Personal accountability requires first and foremost the courage and the capacity to more fully comprehend the effects — the truth and consequences – of one’s actions and behaviors upon one’s victims and their survivors. It also requires a willingness and ability to dismantle the wall of minimization, denial, and disassociation that exists within many offenders. These are both very difficult challenges for offenders, but they are not insurmountable. What is required is an understanding of some of the reasons offenders allow themselves to make the choices they do to victimize others, and a willingness to make a rigorous commitment to personal accountability in the long-term aftermath of these crimes and violations. This is not a simple challenge, but it is a worthy endeavor.  And it can begin even several decades after the crime.

An initiative rooted in experiential awareness-building, the Accountability Project embraces a dual approach to accountability. On the one hand, it can provide an indirect means for certain victims/survivors of violence and violation to express their feelings toward the incarcerated offenders in their cases. This can be handled through a victim-centered offender liaison, enabling victims/survivors to express anything from continuing anger and pain to a request that the offender begin doing something to make meaning from what he or she did, all those years ago. On the other hand, through an offender education curriculum, it can provide an approach that is both cognitive and experiential in nature – and both inwardly and outwardly focused.

Giving victims/survivors an opportunity to express feelings toward their offenders reminds each offender that the consequences of his or her behaviors continue on, persisting for decades after the crime. In education, the Accountability Curriculum focuses on what one has done, supplementing “thinking for a change”-type curricula that are found in the more effective and traditional cognitive intervention programs. The evidence clearly suggests that these programs are effective, but the fundamental operating principle at work in the Accountability Project is that offenders cannot easily or fully move forward into the future without properly addressing (in an affective manner) the harms and violations they have committed against their victims in the past. As the adage goes, those who refuse to remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Honestly addressing the circumstances and choices that led offenders to commit the crimes they did can help them remember the past in that way. Survivors live with these memories every day. If offenders really want to change, they have to examine their own past choices and behaviors, and the responsibilities they alone bear for them.

The hope and promise of the Accountability Project initiative is that it may give victims/survivors a safe and reasonably simple way to give voice to their feelings, through a liaison, directly to the offender. The hope and promise of the Accountability Curriculum is that it can help offenders transform habits of denial and minimization into a deep commitment to integrity and honest intention by facing the past and re-framing the future. It is the creation of firm foundations through shoring up – but not ignoring or avoiding – the crumbled foundations of past actions and behaviors.

For further information on the developing Accountability Project and Accountability Quotient initiatives, contact Jon Wilson.