Congress should declare a National Fart Day to relieve everyone. A musing.

— Lester L. Polk


Of all the simple pleasures in life, nothing compares with a good fart. Although they can indeed be unpleasant to those standing in their immediate vicinity, farts honestly bring great relief to those who release them.

It is considered unmannerly to expel wind in the presence of others, but this pressing intestinal need inevitably seems to arise at the most inopportune times when one is surrounded by people. First dates, elevators, classrooms, church — flatulence knows no timetable.

How many times have you suffered abdominal cramping for the comfort of others? Silently bore rectal rumbling so that sensibilities will not be offended and your reputation remains upstanding? Too many, I say.

We need a change so cheese-cutting men and women can break wind, poot, and float an air biscuit like free Americans.

Considering there’s a national day for everything from doughnuts to donkeys, Congress ought to enact a National Fart Day as a holiday from the restraints of good manners governing the breaking of wind.

On National Fart Day all citizens would be encouraged to let loose their anal acoustics everywhere and anytime. Just think of the relief it would bring to one and all! I say, let freedom rip! It’s about time.

Being forgiven leads to forgiving others in a cycle of compassion that has the power to break the chains of violence.

— by Lester L. Polk


When I first arrived in prison, I somehow kept expecting that an alarm would go off and awaken me from this surreal nightmare, that I’d be able to tell my fiancee Vicki that I had had a horrible dream where I was taken away from her and locked in a cage.

Yet day after day, I woke up and saw not the pewter eyes of my teenage love, but the drab painted walls of the cell that became my expatriate dwelling for what would be the remainder of my life.

As time passed, I found myself in a quandary: should I become one of those around me — a convict who accepted this environment as his life and choose its mores over society’s? Or should I attempt to retain the Lester that I was before the infamous ride of a night that left a man dead and his wife and daughter brutalized?

I chose the latter. So with the typical care of a fish out of water, I stayed close to the wall and tried not to make a fool of myself as I frantically held on to what humanity I still had with a vise-like grip.

Yet, no matter how hard I tried, I came to the conclusion that for a man bearing the weight of a life sentence, holding on to the vestiges of his existence in the free world is like trying to catch the wind.

After the first decade or so of incarceration, I thought like a convict. I’d get a 32-cent an hour job and a girlfriend to send me care packages and maybe sneak in a cuddle or two during visits. Still, I was focused enough to steer clear of the common prison fare of gangs, drugs, violence and anarchy, mostly because I had had a few encounters with violence. Each had proved more destructive than the slow death sentence I was already subjected to.

Yet, I could not see taking my last breath behind bars. After taking the obligatory trip to the law library and jailhouse lawyers beat me out of my money, I realized that it would take a miracle to get out from under life without parole.

So I tried a tactic born of desperation — I prayed. I had been brought up in the church and I remembered one verse from Sunday school — “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” John 8:32. I figured that if I prayed enough and was good enough, I’d find this truth and it would set me free.

I leaned into it hard because I wanted Jesus’s help — bad. I went about it like a college course, treating the Bible as required reading and worship services as required classes. My conduct began to change. I became a good Christian man, a soldier for Jesus. Yet, I still wasn’t whole. I didn’t experience the cleansing power that preachers talked about so often. I still felt hollow.

Then one day, I had an epiphany. In order to go forward, I had to go backward, back to the night where I lost my moral compass and sense of decency. But I couldn’t do it. I had worked hard to get rid of that Lester. He was a monstrosity who had emerged only once in my lifetime, but he had ruined lives. I no longer knew him and I certainly didn’t want to revisit him.

Like a secret agent, I had always had a cover story — I had gone along for a robbery and it went horribly wrong, I was just “an accessory to an accidental homicide.” But that was only half the truth. While I had no criminal background, I was not just an accessory in the course of events. I was an anger-propelled catalyst of them.

I was fueled by the rage of perceived injustice against me, a rage that I had been holding inside for years. That fateful night, I was in a position of total control over others, and I lost grip of reality, compassion and goodness. Even as I write these words, it is still hard for me to speak frankly about what I did. I was a black man fulfilling an old stereotype, robbing a white family in their home, yelling racial epithets with an ungodly blood lust that had been building like a volcano for years.

For forty-eight minutes, I terrorized the family whose home I invaded. It only ended when I threatened the sanctity of the teenage daughter, and the father heroically intervened by attacking me. My co-defendant wrestled him down and shot him in the back. We fled.

I ran from these facts for nearly a decade. The idea of going back to that night gnawed at me. One of my Christian brothers suggested I write to the widow and her daughter. So I did. In a bland but heartfelt letter, I admitted my wrongs and expressed sorrow. And I was proud of myself. I had done my Christian duty. I had made amends.

When I received no response, I was relieved. If they didn’t want to address the pain, who was I to peel off the scab? So I ran back to my cover story. For eight more years, I lived with the overwhelming shame and relentless burden of my detestable actions.

One day, out of the blue, I received a letter from the widow. She asked if I was okay, if I’d ever heard of “restorative justice,” and if I wanted to do a “mediation.” I’d only vaguely heard of such a program. I was intrigued, but reluctant. How could I ever sit in front of her and talk about what I had done to her and her family?She kept writing to me. She didn’t want to yell, she said, she just wanted answers. I warmed to the idea, but it didn’t happen and that was fine by me.

Two years later, I received a call from the Office of Victim Services in Sacramento. My victim had requested a mediation with me, and a trained mediator would prepare me for the meeting. I was taken aback. A mediation was one thing in theory, to go though with it was an entirely different matter. But I also knew this was the hand of God and I would regret it if I passed up this opportunity.

In my first meeting with the mediator, I encountered a small, demure woman who possessed a gentle kindness that enabled me to drop my cover story and face the full extent of the painful destruction I had caused. Subsequent meetings helped me recognize that although I couldn’t fully fathom the evil I had done, I did indeed do it. No amount of denial could shield me from that fact. As I began to own my actions, I was able to empathize with the family. I saw the infinite number of ripples the stone of my selfishness had caused. As that happened, I became eager to get well. I had to. I did not want to meet the widow with my old issues lingering.

I tore into every rehabilitative class that was offered, especially group therapy. I was embarrassingly honest and made myself emotionally naked. Feelings flooded me, repressed memories, old anxieties, secret fears, all with deluges of incessant tears. In prison, a world full of predators, displays of such emotion are not generally done. They make you vulnerable — and a potential victim. But I couldn’t have stopped even if I had wanted to. It poured out of me.

After much work, I was finally ready to meet the widow. I couldn’t sleep the night before. She would be like a praying mantis, I told myself, she’d bite my head off when she was done with me.

Anxiously sitting in the foyer of the visiting room, I knew that nothing would be the same after that day. “Okay Lester, we’re going in there now. Let me know if you’d like a break or if it becomes too intense for you,” the mediator said.

I walked in. I’d been in the same room many times, but always with a supporter, never to face the fear I’d been running from for twenty years. My therapist and the Survivor, as I now called her in order to truly pay tribute to what she had gone through, stood in front of me. The Survivor did something I did not expect. She held out her hand for me to shake. It was quite a different reception than the last time we had met, in a courtroom. I earnestly shook her hand and we all sat.

The Survivor spoke first. “What led you to be in my home that evening?” she said in a determined tone, like a reporter who had a lead on a story and was not going to leave without it.

“Well, I had been involved with a group of people, who I wouldn’t call friends, and they were making a great deal of money from robberies. I told them I wanted to join in, but they were actually looking for another person I knew to join them. I wasn’t part of their ‘crew.’ I was really an outsider who vaguely knew of their activities.”

The Survivor looked intensely into me eyes as if trying to ascertain whether I was lying. I continued, explaining how her house was chosen.

“Say that again. Do you mean to tell me that it was by chance that my home selected?” I answered in the affirmative.Our faulty logic deemed that a safe containing thousands of dollars was in the house and we did not believe the victims’ claims that they had no safe. Our unwritten rule was never leave a robbery empty-handed.

This information was met with stoic silence. The meeting was getting quite intense. I looked for the exit. My therapist gave me a reassuring nod. I continued. “Can I read a letter that I wrote to you as part of my therapy? It’s called ‘victim’s shoes’. It’s written as if you were writing to me about the trauma that my actions caused.” She nodded.

The letter was filled with insight about the pain and turmoil that my actions had caused. I looked intently at the paper as I read. I didn’t feel worthy of looking at the Survivor. When I finished, I found the strength to look up. To my surprise, tears filled her eyes.

“You get it, you really do get it! i just wanted to know if you understood. Now I know you do. That means so much to me.”

“I just wanted to let you know that I am so sorry. I can only express to you that I have spent my life trying to be the exact opposite of what you experienced that horrible night. I can only beg you to find it in your heart to forgive me.”

A short reflection on maturity.
— By Lester L. Polk

“The older I get, the smarter my mother becomes,” was an adage repeatedly declared by my fourth-grade teacher. The saying made no sense to the ten-year-old me, but now I find it overflowing with much wisdom.

When we’re young, our journey consists of just going along without making preparations, asking for instructions or seeking directions. No wonder we end up lost.

But wisdom can be found in our mistakes. By getting lost and finding our own way back, we gain experience. Once we gain that, we are able to acquire the maturity that will guide us in our various journeys from that point on.

Being lost, of course, is not nearly as much fun as getting where we want to go, just as telling someone off is not as effective as proper communication, or quitting a job is not as gratifying as paying rent, or realizing that sex has consequences far beyond climax. When we get tired of being lost, maturity informs us that we are not indestructible so we better take it easy.

In my youth, I lacked the wisdom, experience and maturity to guide me in my journey, but I’m hearing my mother’s voice more and more lately.

This time I think I’ll listen.

When I was about ten years old, I was sexually abused by an older boy. I thought I had brought it upon myself because I didn’t fight back. My family, my source of safety and values, told me so. From that moment on, life was no longer simple, no longer clean and innocent.

I saw my life through a prism of paralyzing shame. My entire purpose for being was filtered through what I had suffered, and there was no escape from it. The incident was my constant, unwanted companion, my scarlet letter branded on my soul. I felt my life could never again be whole.

As I grew into adolescence, I began to question my very essence, who I was on the inside and my God-given heterosexual orientation.That disjointed thinking of a victim formed the nexus of my teenage behavior because I had to find a way of erasing the stain off me. I needed the feelings of powerlessness that overcame me during that incident and never left, to end. I had to get my being back from that animal. I thought I could do that by becoming a “real man.”

I turned into a hypersexed person. Since it was my greatest fear that people would out about my secret, I made myself the least likely candidate, the person no one would ever suspect of having undergone such a trauma. But no matter how much porn I viewed or how many sex partners I collected, the confusion and shame remained in my psyche.

My consciousness was so contaminated that the shadow of my trauma spilled into all my relationships, both familial and romantic. I would shrivel on the inside when I met new people for fear that they would find out about my dirty secret and reject me. Anytime I came into contact with these new friends, it was like I was constantly reliving the worst moment of my life, as if I were stuck in a horrible time loop of that night, desperately trying to get free but to no avail.

I have since learned that in molestation cases, it’s not the actual act that is the worst for the victim, it’s the constant state of shame and filthiness that the act leaves on the victim. It’s the fear that if people knew, they would run away in terror. It’s the inner alarm that screams “you’re not good enough!”, “no one will ever love you!” But these are the insidious lies the trauma wants you to believe because by believing them, the trauma remains in power.



After many years, I finally came to the conclusion that life is not what happens to you, but how you react to what happens. I was giving that predator too much strength. I was allowing him to live rent-free in my life. He was only my master because I let him. If I chose not to let him rule, then he is a deposed ruler. I alone had the power to change “my” trauma into “the” trauma. I can know that what happened is just what happened. It is just one thing in my life, and is not the seed from which the rest of my life grows.

I know now that what that he did was his issue, not mine. I didn’t turn gay because my ten-year-old self went into shock at the hands of a predator. I can’t blame my family because they did not know how to handle the unspeakable, a tragedy that was easier to sweep under the rug than confront by getting me the counseling that I desperately needed.

I can only say this: I no longer accept “my” trauma. It is now just “my life,” one of the many elements that added all together, make me, me. So as detestable as that incident was, I wouldn’t be the man that I am without it. I accept it as part of my life, knowing that I am the only one who can control it, not a bewildered ten-year-old boy and surely not fourteen-year-old predator.

          By Lester L. Polk

     The drab grey walls amplify the overwhelming sense of enclosure. As you sit in the foyer of the prison visiting room, you know that this day would be as far from “normal” as any other day you have ever experienced in your multiple decades in prison. This is the day you stopped being afraid; the day you stop running from your wretched past. With the mask of a tough guy, you always pride yourself of your fearlessness; afraid of nothing, except what awaits you on the other side of that visiting room door. 
      You see, you are a murderer, a man guilty of extinguishing human life, plagued with a life debt that you can’t pay, but thrust with an opportunity to finally see its effects.
     “Hello,” whispers the mediator in a soft, raspy voice. Dressed in beige, knee-length conservative dress, the somewhat older woman, speaking with a slightly Mid-Western accent, shakes your hand and goes on to prepare you for what will transpire during this meeting. You listen carefully, until your thoughts are interrupted by a myriad of concerns: “Can you do this? Do you really have the strength? Can you actually go through with this?”
     You wipe your sweaty palms across your “Prisoner” stenciled pants as the mediator continues to read, “…and you hereby release the Department of Corrections of any injury or liability arising from this meeting.” Your heart is racing. Your mind is racing. 
     “Man, they sure are covering themselves, aren’t they?” you utter.
     “Well,” she continues, “this process is new; the concepts of forgiveness and understanding are foreign to the Correctional system.”
     You watch as she loosens up. “It’s almost comedic when one considers their name, The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation,” she says with a dry chuckle. Her soft, feminine voice calms your nerves, though a residual fear lingers on. 
     This “mediator” is the exact opposite of you. Ms. Davenport is a small, petite, demure Caucasian woman. You are a six-foot-one, two-hundred fifty pound black prisoner deeply ensnared in the clutches of the Criminal Justice System; perpetually stamped as violent and dangerous. Ms. Davenport sees through the veneer. She sees beyond the cold, written record of your past, and views the present softer, gentler one who is reaching out for help from the core. You relish in the fact that she sees you, racked by decades of guilt and shame for a horrific past, now aching to make amends. 
     From the very first meeting, Ms. Davenport presents herself as a kind, forgiving, trustworthy human being. You have numerous meetings with her, embraced by the empathetic energy that she so generously provides. From those meetings you learn of the deep damage you wrought in your victim’s family’s lives. You see no reason to distrust her. After all, she worked tirelessly to get through the governor-mental red tape in order to facilitate this meeting, providing you with an opportunity to experience a very rare restorative justice meeting, as opposed to the ever unforgiving model of vindictive retribution and endless punishment. 
     This restorative process is totally foreign to your way of thinking. On the streets, you were a beast—an unforgiving monster who never gave forgiveness, nor expected it. As a prisoner, you had been all but tucked away and forgotten. Your life has been relegated to four very close walls dotted with locks all about you, and not a light to be seen in the near future—if ever. You have come to like your life as you have formed it. You didn’t matter, nor did anything else, except for your God and the hereafter. You have your daily routine. You really have no need, or desire, for any reminders of your crime; the greatest shame of your life. But Ms. Davenport is persistent, even a bit pushy. So you agree, and begin to mentally prepare for the meeting. While you never expected such an opportunity, your many hours of group and individual therapy have made you ready.
     After all of the legal preambles, Ms. Davenport takes your hand and says, “Okay, we’re going in there now. Remember to let me know if it becomes too intense for you.” You relish in the fact that she sees you, racked by decades of guilt and shame for a horrific past, now aching to make amends. 
     You’ve been to the visiting room many times before, but it had always been with someone you were friendly with. But this time you are walking straight towards the gripping fear you have been running from for the past twenty years. 
     As you move to sit down, you realize that your victim’s widow, Mrs. Henderson, is standing directly in front of you. While you sit there motionless, barraged by a torrent of emotions, the most unusual thing occurs. Mrs. Henderson holds out her hand to you, insisting that you shake it before the meeting begins. The impromptu gesture takes you by surprise. You consider the attitude that she so visibly (and understandably) displayed towards you during your trial. You oblige, hesitantly. Your troubled mind is eased by her gesture; a far cry from the first meeting. 
     You were full of ignorance and unresolved anger issues. You agreed to participate in a robbery that resulted in the premature death of Frank Henderson, Mrs. Henderson’s husband. That delinquent you, is a perversion to who you are today. Every time you think about who you should truly have been, the potential that you had and the reality of the act you committed, storm clouds of shame rain on your life. 
     There was a time in your life when you were considered one of the most promising, rising stars in your family. There were clear (and reasonable) expectations placed before you. You were expected to earn a college degree, a military commission and to boot, create and raise a family. Your fate had been written in the hearts and minds of your loving family, but the seduction of an outlaw lifestyle rang volumes louder than the faint cry of a family’s love. Your failure weighs on you like an anvil. This is why when Mrs. Henderson offered you her hand to shake, you feel so unworthy. 
     You both take your seats. Ms. Davenport reminds you, “The rules I explained to you are pretty simple. We will allow each other the opportunity to speak, before interjecting or commenting.” You each nod in agreement.
     Mrs. Henderson initiates the meeting with a request, her face serious: and asks, “Tell me, in your own words, the events that led you to be in my bedroom that horrible evening?” Her brown eyes focus intently and expectantly into your eyes. You look down, noting her tone is not angry, but instead firm, yet affable. You feel at ease enough to respond—after a long pause.
     You reluctantly begin to recount the deadly events that extinguished one life and marred so many others. 
     You tell her you were involved with a group of people, who were not really what you would call friends. You had heard that they were making a great deal of money from robberies. Thoughtless, you only saw the potential money; never did you imagine that things would go terribly wrong. When you met up with these guys, you told them you wanted in. You were an outsider, vaguely aware of their activities, but part of the same neighborhood.
      Mrs. Henderson holds intense eye-to-eye contact, yet she’s clearly disconnected. She does not understand, to any degree, the subculture you describe to her. Determined, you continue to explain. Then you explain the randomness in which her house was chosen. She remains silent during the entire explanation. But the moment you’re finished she shows her astonishment and anger. 
     “Say that again!” she demands. “Do you mean to tell me that it was by sheer chance that my house was selected?”
     Shamefully, with your head already lowered, you affirm that was indeed the case. “We figured there was at least a thousand dollars in the house somewhere,” you add, as if that might help. You explain to Mrs. Henderson how their avid denials of having a safe fell on deaf ears. And despite your failure to find a safe, the “rule” was to never leave a robbery empty-handed.
     Mrs. Henderson sits stoically. These eerie few moments seemed like a lifetime. Her silence amplifies your terror and shame as they return to haunt you with a vengeance. You feel like a fly caught in a web, unable to extract yourself. You want to run and hide. But as you look to your right, Ms. Davenport offers a reassuring nod. 
     Following a long silence, you ask Mrs. Henderson, “Can I read a letter that I wrote to you as a part of my therapy? I call it ‘Victim’s Shoes.’ I wrote it as if you were writing it to me, about the trauma and devastation that my actions caused.” Mrs. Henderson agreed. You begin to read:

     Dear Mr. Polk,
     Allow me to introduce myself to you. My name is Ashley Henderson. I am the widow of Mr. Frank Henderson, husband and father to our two beautiful girls. He was a successful businessman, community leader and the love of my life. That was the man who disappeared from my life. Now, I know you did not “pull the trigger,” but I hold you to the same judicial standards as the killer of my love, because as they say, “in for a penny, in for a pound,” and you are culpable.
     I want you to understand that I am not using this opportunity to place additional guilt in your life, but you need to realize that on June 14, 1991, you stole more than my husband, four thousand dollars and the innocence of my children. You stole my life. You stole my dreams; my peace of mind. You stole my quiet moments, family gatherings and the list goes on and on.
     For weeks, months, and years, I had no time to grieve because I had to bury my husband, attend to my heartbroken children and deal with your trial. When I was finally able to grieve, I just wandered around the house like a ghost in a graveyard. I haunted Frank’s closet; I opened drawers and cabinets; I touched his shirts and jackets—burying my face in his clothes, trying to breathe in his scent. Sometimes I would shut myself in our room and hold the last pictures of us together, and weep.
     The pain did not start or stop with just me. My daughters, Lisa and Deborah, lost their father simply because you killed him. Deborah had just given birth days after her father’s death, so Frank never got a chance to see his grandchild. The child grew up without having the wisdom of a loving grandfather. 
     Lisa, well, she got hammered with the worst of it all. As you already know, Frank died in her arms. The object of her love and safety bled out in front of her. Can you possibly imagine the horrible thoughts that ran through her mind, the utter feelings of hopelessness that stayed with her? So much so that she turned to drugs and troubles of all kinds trying to numb the pain.
     Don’t fool yourself into thinking those forty-eight horrifying minutes are long gone.  For Lisa, whenever she’d see a black man, the tragedy would trigger all over again. The anger, the hate in your voice stayed with her, as well as with me, and still does to this day.
     I was a youth activist in juvenile hall before you and your gang violently entered my life. And even after you did, I found it to be my life’s calling. Especially after I found out that you all were teens.
     I hear that you changed your life, and you now serve the Lord God. Well, I prayed for that to happen. I am glad that you received forgiveness for your soul. I, too, offer you my forgiveness, which means that I no longer hold you in the context of our tragic meeting. I truly believe you are sorry for what you did. You have my forgiveness, and simply put, I wrote this letter to let you know what you are forgiven for.

     You use the letter as a shield, holding it close to your face as you read. You don’t feel worthy to look Mrs. Henderson in her eyes. However, as you lower your shield, to your surprise, her eyes are filled with tears!
     She looks directly at you, tears streaming. As she wipes them away, her chest lifts, her head raises and she announces, “You actually get it! I just wanted to know if you understood. That means so much to me!” she exclaims.
     Your mind seems dim, numb, but your mouth naturally mutters, “I’m so sorry. I can only express to you that since that horrifying night, I have spent my life trying to be the exact opposite of the boy who destroyed your life that shameful day.”
     With a look of nurturing kindness on her face, Mrs. Henderson says, “We all need forgiveness. We are all sinners. If there was anything I could do to earn my righteousness, then I would not need Jesus. But we all need forgiveness and salvation. Besides that, I would like to offer you my friendship.”
     At that, your eyes light up like lanterns. And she continues, “I would like for us to get to know one another. I think it would be a Jesus-like ending to this tragedy. Besides, we might as well be friends now, because we’ll be together in heaven for eternity. I truly believe that is what the Lord would want. In this life, misfortune happens to us, but what we do with them is the test.”
     You listen with what must be a look of bewilderment on your tear-stained face, absorbing all that Mrs. Henderson is saying. Finally, you tell her that you would indeed be her friend and that you consider her friendship a gift from God. 
     As the meeting continues on, the heaviness you carried out there evaporates. The meeting turns into a visit as you and her chat and learn more about one another. It is a new chapter to a twenty-year-old encounter. You speak of breakthroughs in therapy, and she shared the triumphs of her children. You share the insanity of the prison system, and explain what a blessing it is to be able to change from beast to human again despite what the past would dictate.
     You tell her how violent and crazy the last prison you were at had been. You describe the riots, the “jackings” for canteen, and how prevalent the same mindset that caused you to run in her house is in prison. Ms. Davenport seems to bask in the success of the meeting and remains a silent observer. 
     Mrs. Henderson shares stories of counter thinking as well. She tells you about family members who think meeting you is insane. She confides in you how an acquaintance who was accompanying her at Mass on a recent Sunday chided her for coming to meet you and even considering offering an olive branch. 
     You laugh inside at the irony. Perhaps the acquaintance didn’t hear Jesus’s message on forgiveness, you think to yourself. 
     Hours later the institution cut short all visits to conduct an emergency count. As you stand to leave, you offer to shake Mrs. Henderson’s hand but she abruptly shoves it to the side and opens her arms with a smile. She stands there, insisting, until you walk in and let her envelop you. She squeezes as if you were long-lost family.
     As you line up for intake into the housing unit, your fellow prisoners comment on your obvious glow. It is evident that something special occurred because, according to your neighbor, you are “beaming.” So you share your wonderful experience in the briefest version possible. He is amazed, as are those in earshot. 
     The usual and collective experience with victims consists of sometimes hateful, always tear-filled and emotion-driven statements to the court. In contrast, your meeting was a unique, bright, warm light the likes of which are unheard of in the dark, negative world of prison. Yet, this is your story of how one remarkable woman charmed the beast. 

     Beauty and the Beast is a fictionalized version of a real life Turning Point in the author’s life. The names were improvised, but the cause, effect and setting are real. 
     In contrast to the normal “Lock the beast in a cage” mentality, it showcases a different ideal, a Victim/Offender dialogue; which in this case resulted in forgiveness and emotional freedom for both parties. 
     While not suitable for all cases, this process replaces the State as victim with the real wounded party and gives them the voice that so shamelessly has been denied them. 
     For the offender, truly understanding the total effects of their crime can often be a stepping stone to change. This is sorely needed considering that approximately two-thirds of offenders will return to society.