Make or become different.
An act or process through which something becomes different.
I’ve just watched ITV’s documentary, James Bulger: A Mothers Story and found myself heartbroken to hear of the vile acts committed by Robert Thompson and Jon Venables 25 years ago. What makes this story particularly harrowing is the fact that the perpetrators were just 10 at the time, only children themselves.
When I look at my daughter who is only a year older than the two boys when they murdered an innocent 2 year old, I can’t quite comprehend what would drive a child to do such a thing. This got me thinking about change and whether offenders particularly those involved in such horrific acts can be truly rehabilitated or whether evil is ingrained within.
The ‘nature vs nurture’ psychology debate springs to mind. The ‘nature’ side arguing that genetics plays its part and behaviour is inherited whereas the ‘nurture’ side suggests that behaviour is acquired or learned. It’s interesting to consider whether these two were predisposed to commit such a heinous act from genetics alone or whether their upbringing was the trigger of such.
After reading up on the subject I don’t think a conclusion in favour of either argument is clear cut and would be inclined to agree that a contribution of both nature and nurture influences human behaviour. With this in mind though; can a person truly change? Does rehabilitation work?
Both offenders were given anonymity at the cost of the tax payer and whilst Robert Thompson has kept a low profile since his release in 2001 and yet to re-offend; Jon Venables is back in prison after being caught with child abuse images for a second time.
Can a leopard change his spots? I think this case alone highlights how difficult a question this is to answer. You have here two criminals; one who appears to have been rehabilitated and one who hasn’t.
I personally believe in second chances. I want to emphasise here that I do not condone any of the horrific violence that James Bulger endured during his last few hours and I can’t even begin to imagine what his mother and family went through in the aftermath. Despite hoping for the good in humanity, being an optimist and believing that what makes us human is the ability to forgive; I am also a realist and whether its nature or nurture or a mixture of both; history has shown us that some individuals are revolting and obnoxious creatures. It may be controversial but in those instances I believe we should ‘lock em up and throw away the key’.
McLeod, S. A. (2015). Nature vs nurture in psychology. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/naturevsnurture.html