Forgiveness, Repentance, Criminal Justice,

Forgiveness, Repentance, Criminal Justice,

Discussion date: Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

This Thursday we are fortunate to have with us Dharma Teacher Cheri Maples. Cheri is the co-founder of the Center for Mindfulness and Justice in Madison Wisconsin. She worked for more than 25 years in the Wisconsin criminal justice system as a police office with a beat, as an Assistant Attorney General, and as the head of Probation and Parole for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. While serving as a police officer she earned degrees in law and social work.

During this same time period, Cheri was also a community activist and organizer, and for more than 20 years she has been a student of Thich Nhat Hanh.

Cheri now works as a organizational consultant, trainer, and speaker. She has taught mindfulness to criminal justice professionals, health-care workers, teachers, and social service providers. Her special focus has been on helping them learn to carry out their professional duties while maintaining an open heart and healthy boundaries.

After our sitting period, Cheri will share some reflections on forgiveness and repentance, guilt and remorse, and fierce compassion and gentle compassion.

We invite you to join us.

An excerpt from her article, "Fierce Compassion", is below.

Upcoming Still Water special events

Sunday, April 25, Still Water Flower Walk and Picnic at Brookside Gardens.

Non-Violence and Criminal Justice
By Cheri Maples, from "Fierce Compassion", The Mindfulness Bell, Autumn, 2009

I have deeply internalized Thay’s teaching that it is impossible to end violence with violence.

I believe this is the biggest challenge and the most important lesson for all those working in the criminal justice system. Working to provide public safety means working for peace and justice, and requires an unwavering personal commitment to non-violence in our own lives and in our environments and systems. This requires a personal aspiration not to contribute to violence or aggression in any form. If the personal is indeed political, the most radical political act of all is to learn how to live in more harmony with everyone and everything.

When we understand our interdependence deeply, we understand that when we care for ourselves, we care for others; and when we care for others, we care for ourselves. This understanding enables us to effectively work for peace in ourselves, our communities, and our world.

Unfortunately, I work in a criminal justice system based on the premise that punishment of the perpetrator will heal the victim and rehabilitate the perpetrator. Of course, people insistent on punishing each other usually become allied in making each other suffer more.

I have observed that it is not the wrongdoer’s repentance that creates forgiveness, but the victim’s forgiveness that creates repentance. This is where forgiveness enters the realm of spirit and paradox. Because it becomes a mysterious gift offered to one who does not necessarily merit it, it becomes the essence of compassion itself.


Discussion Date: Thu, Apr 15, 2010