Ex-convict begs for forgiveness - 'I was a prisoner of my bitter anger' shared man who killed girlfriend because he thought his daughter was a 'jacket'
Forgiving himself was the only way Howard Davis said he was able to deal with prison life after being sentenced to 10 years for killing the mother of his two children during a domestic dispute. But the ex-convict is now hoping to receive forgiveness from the victim's family.
"I have always begged for the opportunity to tell my victim's family that I am sorry," said Davis, who has been out on parole since June of this year.
"More times, we as the offenders are hurt by the crime that we have done. I see it as important in one's life to even try to make amends, and you have to push out the effort."
Davis said the day he killed his girlfriend of eight years in a fit of rage was the lowest point of his life. At the time, he was 25 years old and was angry because he was being teased by the community and her relatives that his daughter was a 'jacket'.
"Aunty and cousins, more time, bothered me that is jacket I was minding. It did stink inna the community that a 'jacket' mi a mind," he shared with The Sunday Gleaner.
"I was so young and fool and ignorant, I made it embed inna mi and boil up in me and get bitter inna mi. I was bitter. It controlled my nerves and took over my limbs. I was a prisoner to the situation."
CALLING FOR DNA TEST
He said he asked for a DNA test and that created an issue. He said the stress he was under was compounded because, at the time, he was the only breadwinner for the family.
"When me hear that the baby a 'jacket', those were the things that me think, because mi see that I was stressing myself more time, night and day to put food in the house," he recounted.
"It end up that I go up to the yard and me and her family members had an argument. When I reached up there and me and her was in an argument, a one stab she get and she dead."
Davis had a lot of time to think about his crime in prison, and even did a course that taught him how to manage stress. He noted that not every offender was repentant, but he had personally extended an invitation to his victim's family to visit him in prison so they could discuss the impact his actions had caused.
Just recently, he was given the opportunity to apologise to his son, who was just two years old when his mother's life was taken.
"I told him that I am sorry. I told him that I know he feels hurt, and I told him that I would want my mother too, and I would feel a way. They (children) lost a mother and it was because of me," he lamented.
"Yes, I did something wrong and I accept it, but I want to move on with my life."
Programmes manager at Stand Up For Jamaica, George Love, said there are many prisoners hoping for an opportunity to apologise to their victims or family members affected by their crime.
"Persons have acknowledged that, 'hey, I did something wrong and if I could have turned back the hands of time, I would have dealt with things differently'," said Love.
He said he has personally come across about 30 offenders who have expressed their desire to seek forgiveness from their first and second victims. These individuals were charged for crimes such as murder, carnal abuse, fraud, robbery, and shooting with intent.
As a restorative justice facilitator and human-rights advocate, Love believes dialogue between offenders and victims can help reduce recidivism and curb the overpopulation of the country's penal institutions.
"It is important because it will help to curtail the whole need to have revenge, to retaliate. It helps to build relationships between the offender and the victim's family, and between the offender and the community," he said.
Love, who was shot by a family friend at age 13 and was crippled as a result, said he has personally experienced the liberating feeling forgiveness brings.
"I do not see myself as a victim. I see myself as someone who has overcome challenges and who has seen those challenges as a stepping stone to being a better person. To bring me to a position where I am more aware of my roles and responsibility in nation building through creating human and social capital. Hence, this whole thing of RJ (restorative justice) is very important for me, and something that is very personal," Love stated.