If you were to ever interact with an inmate, what would you expect to see? Would you see their innate potential for greatness despite the circumstances they may have faced? Would you prejudge them, or decide to give them the benefit of the doubt? These individuals, who may have been innocently accused, are usually incarcerated because of a myriad of factors often beyond their control. Therefore, we must exercise emotional intelligence and empathy if we are to ever understand them.
In addition, it is also important to realize that we are all imperfect beings. We have all made mistakes in some way. The only difference is that some people face worse consequences than others. Inmates experience hardships too, and the most surprising fact is that a good number of inmates are actually innocent. Research conducted by the ACLU Campaign for smart justice shows that about 68% of incarcerated inmates are awaiting trial. This statistic is quite disturbing in a justice system that emphasizes innocence until guilt is proven.
We can exercise emotional intelligence by working towards giving these individuals the benefit of the doubt and empathizing with their circumstances. Take for instance, a hypothetical inmate was convicted for theft. Instead of dismissing this individual and judging him as a thief, one can try to reason and understand the circumstances that may have caused this individual to steal. Imagine he had come from an abusive home with parents that were unable to provide for him. In this case, would it be unreasonable to empathize and understand that he literally had to steal in order to survive? This doesn’t mean that empathizing equates to justifying. Crimes that were committed are wrong, but it isn’t right to base an individual’s worth on the mistakes they made. In most cases, crime is caused by other deep-rooted factors that people often leave in the dark when they interact with inmates. If we want to
facilitate emotional intelligence and understanding, we should avoid prejudgment and embrace the realization that some unknown circumstances affected the outcomes we see.