For sentencing, the legal system should adopt atonement, rejecting wrong, but not rejecting people when they change their ways.
When a person pleads guilty the query, “How do you think you should atone?” should be made.
It is beneficial to understanding and judgement to attain an idea of what those committing an offence consider sufficient atonement and why. A statement of what is considered sufficient helps those harmed consider conciliation and those who have harmed consider their actions and the harm they have done.
Conciliation requires the willingness to atone and make amends. Those harmed need to hear those who have harmed express their desire to make amends and atone.
The offer to make amends must indicate how, in what form and to what extent. This conveys what is felt to be appropriate and sufficient atonement for the harm done. A person’s statement must reflect the circumstances of their case.
The willingness to make amends and atone attends to genuine contrition. This facilitates the conciliation of those harmed with those who have harmed and humanity in general. It assists closure and a new beginning.
In all legal cases the common purpose should be made clear so fulfilment without harm can be chosen over further harm. However, if pursuing fulfilment without harm is refused, then the liberty to cause harm must be constrained.
There must be a willingness to conciliate, otherwise those who have harmed are bound as harmful for life. However, harm must always be rejected, and there must be protection from those who continually harm.
Making amends is not as important as the commitment to not harm again. If this is genuine, then whatever is done next will contribute without harm, and that contribution is the best amends for harm done.
Zero tolerance for harm does not mean harming in return – that amplifies and perpetuates harm. Zero tolerance means rejecting harm. This may mean depriving people of the freedom to inflict harm, as well as providing people with the understanding to choose not to harm.
Crimes and the widespread abuse of human rights are the failures of societies in which harm is rewarded or punished with greater harm.
[Excerpt from The Common Purpose Manifesto]