Monday, July 18, 2011

6 Inches Taller and 30 Pounds Lighter

Rais Bhuiyan, as we saw the other day, is suing in Texas to enforce his right to mediation with the Mark Stroman, the man who shot him in the face.
There's a similar program in Ohio (we are, after all, the Texas of the North) though we call it "Victim Offender Dialogue" and as far as I know, nobody's yet sued over it.  Of course, that may be because almost nobody knows about it.  I mean, there's a link on the DRC website, but how much is that really worth?  Apparently not much.
Erica Blake, reporting on the program in today's Toledo Blade, makes that clear.
Prison officials recognize that many victims are not aware that the program exists or how to initiate the process.
Of course, those same officials seem to be thoroughly confused about what they've done. 
To date, about 100 dialogues have successfully taken place statewide, said Karin Ho, administrator for the state's Office of Victim Services.
"We realize this is a minority of individuals who want to go through the program, but for those who do they are passionate about it," she said.
"There are so many different reasons why someone would want to do this. A victim may have questions that have been burning within them for years like 'What were my son's last words? or 'Did he suffer when he died?' " Ms. Ho added. "On the other hand, the offender on the other side of the table has to be held accountable. They have to be willing to answer questions."
Ms. Ho admitted that impetus for the program came from victims -- requests that initially took those in the prison system off guard. In particular, the mother of a murder victim asked in November, 1995, to speak to the man who had killed her daughter.
At the time, it was a request that could not be easily granted, Ms. Ho said.
Oh, and there's this.
They are also in need of volunteers to train and serve as facilitators.
In the Toledo area, there is a significant need for volunteers to help guide victims through the process, Ms. Ho said.
Let's parse that a bit.
It's only a small number of people who want the program.  But there are all sorts of reasons people want it and it's really important.  And there's a desperate need for more people to help facilitate these visits.  Oh, and DRC policies (which are still in place) basically prohibit victims from visiting the people who harmed them. 
So you've got this really important and popular system that almost nobody knows about but you still can't satisfy the demand for even though it's really only a few oddball people who have any interest in it.
If that sounds schizophrenic, it is.
But then it's a program in a system built on the understanding that victims of crime want anything other than blood revenge.  That anyone who doesn't want revenge doesn't really count as a victim. Hell, why do you think it takes so long?  
[I]t can take months, if not years, before completion.
But really, if you want to get it done . . . .
And why would you?
Marie knew something had to change.
It had been several years since she and a roommate had been brutally assaulted in their apartment in suburban Westerville, Ohio, and yet she still felt the rage.
She felt it creep into her decisions and into her relationships with others. She knew it could overtake her on a moment's notice. She recognized that it kept her from living a normal life, one not overrun by the memory of a masked man raping her and her roommate at gunpoint when they were only 23 years old.
She knew something had to change.
For Marie, now 42 and living in Columbus, that change came in the form of a conversation with the least likely person: the rapist himself.
"People may think that this is revictimization, but sometimes you have to face the beast," she said in a recent phone interview.
"It was truly a path of not wanting to live the way I was living," she added. "I hated being that person. I thought that forgiveness might help."
. . .
Marie -- whose last name was withheld because The Blade does not identify victims of sexual assault -- said that she learned a lot about Parks and his background through questions she posed to the facilitators months before she ever saw his face.
And although much of what she needed to know had already been discovered, she went through the barbed-wire gates where Parks was institutionalized to finally confront her rage once and for all.
"Forgiveness truly is for you and not for the other person," she said.
"For me, I looked at the man that I had built up in my head as a monster and I realized, he's just a crazy man. He's just a man who had a shattered psyche and I can forgive just a man. It's hard to forgive a monster," she added. "Eight-five percent of who he is is just a goofy little dude."
. . .
"The dialogue has helped me distance myself and package it up and put it on a shelf," she said.
"I walked out of that prison 6 inches taller and 30 pounds lighter. I left so much there. It was an incredible experience."
I've written a fair amount here about forgiveness and reconciliation.  I'm awed by its power to heal.  And struck over and over by how hatred and revenge never do.


  1. Yes, the classic line of so many relatives of the victim that view the execution of the criminal: big deal, he didn't suffer enough.

    The impulse to hatred and revenge eats up your insides until you are empty. By contrast, the quality of mercy is twice blessed, of course.

  2. To: The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and
    Texas Governor Rick Perry

    Re: Commutation considerations, Texas death row inmate Mark Stroman

    Subject: A Matter of Forgiveness

    From: Dudley Sharp, 713-622-5491

    Rais Bhuiyan is campaigning to have Texas death row inmate Mark Stroman's death sentence commuted. Mark Stroman attempted to murder Mr. Bhuiyan.

    None of Mr. Bhuiyan's efforts, inclusive of his baseless lawsuit against Gov. Perry and the Parole Board, should result in Stroman's commutation.

    The real goal is to publicize another anti death penalty effort, which will have little effect on the discussion.

    Some points:

    Has Mr. Bhuiyan avoided the obvious?

    Has anyone (the media or Bhuiyan?) confirmed any of Stroman's claims, that his parents treated him in a horrible way or that his half sister was murdered on 9/11 in the World Trade Center attack?

    False claims by death row murderers and their supporters are quite common. Let's try to fact check the claims. The claims, if true, offer no excuse for Stroman's crimes.

    The greatest violator of vicitm's rights in this case is Stroman.

    The only one exhibiting hate in this case is Stroman. His hatred resulted in him murdering two innocent people and the attempted murder of Mr. Bhuiyan, based upon his hatred of Muslims, a hatred allegedly hightened by the 9/11 attacks.

    Mr. Bhuiyan has forgiven Stroman for that attempted murder.

    Such forgiveness is important.

    For clear reasons, both Gov. Perry and the parole board should reject Mr. Bhuiyan's petition to commute Stroman's death sentence to a life sentence.

    Considering Mr. Bhuiyan's position, the commutation request should be rejected, because the foundation for Stroman's death sentence is justice, not hatred.

    Mr. Bhuiyan has, simply, invented that the death sentence was based in hatred, just as many other anti death penalty activists do. Therefore, there is not foundation for the commutation request, as it is wrongly based upon false allegation of hatred. (1)


  3. contd

    Mr. Bhuiyan's believes that his forgiveness should provide enough to commute Stroman's sentence to life.

    First, Stroman is not on death row for the attempted murder of Buiyan, but for the capital murder of Vasudev Patel.

    In addition:

    1) Mr. Bhuiyan has the moral authority to forgive Stroman for the attempted murder. Mr. Bhuiyan does not have the moral authority to forgive for crimes committed against others.

    2) Anyone can forgive someone for the crimes committed against themselves and still find that a proper sanction, justice, is appropriate in that case.

    3) Importantly, forgiveness cannot preclude punishment. In fact, punishment can be an important part of forgiveness.

    Both parties, the victim and the perpetrator, can give and seek forgiveness, respectively, and both can understand that a proper sanction should be a part of the forgiveness process. The criminal should take responsibility for their crimes, confess to them, accept the sanction given and seek forgiveness based upon true sorrow and repentance.

    Hopefully, that is what Stroman will do.

    4) The only one who can forgive the perpetrator for the crime is the victim of that crime. Stroman's two murder victims cannot offer their forgiveness. They're dead. Mr. Bhuiyan asserts that the families of Stroman's two murder victims back his efforts and also forgive Stroman. Has that been confirmed and do all family members agree?

    As Mr. Bhuiyan's commutation efforts are solely founded on the wrongful charge of hatred and his erroneous understanding of forgiveness, both offer no foundation for commutation.

    As time goes by, it is clear that Mr. Bhuiyan's crusade is, strictly, an anti death penalty effort.

    Mr. Bhuiyan's is not trying to end all sanctions against Stroman, but is making a plea to commute Stroman's death sentence to a life sentence - meaning that Mr. Bhuiyan does understand that sanction and forgiveness have no conflict and that hatred need have no connection to sanction, as is evident in this case and realized by Mr. Bhuiyan.

    The death penalty is given by juries for the same reason lesser sanctions are, that is that they are a just, appropriate and proportional sanction for the crime committed. (2)

    There are, more solid reasons to deny commutation in this case, but I was only addressing Mr. Bhuiyan's effort.

    Stroman's crimes

    Stroman, a white supremist, additionally, confessed to the Sept. 15, 2001 Dallas murder of Wagar Hasan, an immigrant and Pakistani Muslim. The two murders and the attempted murder were all hate crimes, committed from September 15, 2001 to October 4, 2001, based upon Stroman seeking revenge against Muslims for the 9/11 attacks.

    Stroman, previously, served a two year sentence for one count of burglary of a building and one count of theft of property; released on parole in absentia; returned from parole in absentia with an 8 year sentence from Dallas County for two counts of credit card abuse and one count of robbery; released on parole on 08/26/1991.

    Thank you for your consideration. With these cases, there are very weighty issues to reflect upon.

    1) "The Death Penalty: Neither Hatred nor Revenge"

    2) "Death Penalty Support: Christian and secular Scholars"

    NOTE Any violation of vicitm's rights should be condemned, with a pursuit of remedy, inclusive of legal action, if merited.