Every experience that you have had and every person that you have met will have, in some way, influenced your values and beliefs. What we value and the beliefs we hold have a profound influence on how we think about things and how we behave. We can all help others to change a limiting belief that is empowering and offer many opportunities to people. What you hold dear and what you believe to be important to you has evolved and shaped your life. Our values are what encourage our thoughts, words, and actions. When we make decisions they are a reflection of our values and beliefs. We all have our own values, beliefs, and attitudes that we have developed from our life experiences. Our family, friends, community and the experiences we have had, all contribute to our sense of who we are and how we view the world. When you work in the community we often work with people who are vulnerable and/or who may live a lifestyle that mainstream society views as being different or unacceptable. To provide a compassionate service that meets the needs of our target groups and helps them to feel empowered and respected, we need to be aware of our own personal values, beliefs and attitudes, and not impose our own ideas on our clients. Values are principles, standards or qualities are what we hold to be how we want to live. They guide the way we live our lives and the decisions we make. A ‘value’ is commonly formed by a particular belief that is related to the worth of an idea or type of behaviour. Values can influence many of the judgments we make as well as have an impact on the support we give clients. It is important that we do not influence client’s decisions based on our values. We should always work from the basis of supporting the client’s values.
We have all been brought up with values that include good manners and being courteous. Pride in the way you live life, but with humility. Family life and the value you hold on always being respectful, giving good example and encouraging. Values are stable long-lasting beliefs about what is important. They become standards by which people order their lives and make their choices. A belief will develop into a value when one is committed to it being important. Beliefs and values often motivate a person by defining what they see as being important. In turn, they influence a person’s attitudes, and how they behave. such as: concern for the well-being of others; respect for others; trustworthiness and honesty; compliance with the law; preventing harm to others. Beliefs in general, and values in particular are motivational. Because we tend to move towards what we value and away from what we don’t value, we put energy behind what’s important to us. When beliefs are deeply held, they often lead to black and white thinking. words such as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘appropriate’ and ‘inappropriate’, ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ and ‘important’ and ‘unimportant’ tell you immediately that someone is talking in terms of their values. We acquire and develop them as we strive to make sense of the world. Sadly values today have eroded and we are left with questionable beliefs that are damaging to society at large.s
In any democratic country, it is the politicians who represent the aspirations, opinions and voice of the people. People elect politicians who they feel best represent what they stand for, and implement what they believe the country needs. But is this the case? If the views of the people change, or the government performs poorly, the ruling party gets voted out, and a new set of politicians, possibly representing a different ideology, again chosen by the people, are given their chance. Do they do anything different? These politicians then go on to frame laws in the legislature, depending on the people’s wishes and the party ideology. Civil Servants on the other hand, are people who have strong knowledge and experience, continuity and fixture, in certain fields of policy and governance – and know how to implement certain policies sought by the government, and what the potential problems can be. Civil Servants are chosen on the basis of seniority or merit, and are not elected by the people. Instead, they use the laws passed in the Dail to devise and see over implementable solutions that are in line with those laws. They use their experience and knowledge and years of practical implementation to bring to fruition the plans and wishes of the country’s people, which are represented and passed by the politicians and the laws that they make. Thus, it is crucial that both politicians and Civil Servants (CS) work constructively together in harmony towards the development of the nation and for equity and fairness. A politician may understand the pulse of the people and know what the people in his constituency demand – but may not be able to come up with practical solutions to properly tackle issues. These issues often require interdepartmental knowledge across a variety of social and financial issues that only a C.S. can appreciate. A CS, on the other hand, may devise idealistic or unpopular solutions without knowing what the people who will be most affected by his decisions actually expect. Maybe that is why we have so many shocking mistakes and inequality both in finances and services. There are several cases where a politician and a CS serve different, independent roles that the other cannot perform – for instance, one cannot have a politician as the head of the Law Reform, Gardai and other regulatory agencies, since they strictly require political neutrality. A good example of this would be the relationship between the Finance Minister and the Governor of the Central Bank. The Government would always like to spend a lot of money to boost economic growth, but that would lead to high inflation. Thus, the two functions of 1) boosting economic growth and 2) keeping inflation under check cannot be both given to the same person due to the conflict of interest. But does this always happen? The Government – consisting of politicians elected by popular vote – try to boost economic growth, while the Governor – headed by a non-elected, but knowledgeable man keeps inflation under control by regulating interest rates, even if that means slowing down economic growth. Both balance each other and both are necessary for developing overall healthy policies for a fundamentally strong economy. Well, if all this is the case – then why are our lawmaking politicians still performing so poorly? We must keep in mind that in a democracy the people get what they deserve. If they perform badly, it is the duty of the people to make an informed choice and bring about a change. But at the end of the day, the politician you get is the politician a majority of people wanted. No matter how dishonest he/she might be, they still serve as a representative of the people of the region – but winning an election and gaining the support of thousands of people is surely no mean feat. But charisma and popularity sometimes don’t make for good decisions. So we must ensure that good performance and integrity is the criteria that we use at the polling booth. But replacing them with non-elected people who are not answerable to the people cannot be a good solution either. So it is imperative that when you are voting for a candidate, that you choose wisely, and ensure that what they are promising are for the good of all people rich and poor and see if we can bring back a sense of dignity and respect to this small nation.
The primary purpose of a prison sentence is to punish the offender. However, we tend to forget that a family exist behind the curtains of shame, loss, anger, isolation and anxiety. The families from which prisoners come are among the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society and the imprisonment of a family member frequently serves to further compound their disadvantage. In the face of everyday highlighted issues, the needs of prisoners and their families is not of concern the public. Furthermore, in a political climate where to be perceived as being ‘soft on crime’ can cost crucial votes, advocating on behalf of the rights of prisoners is not a wise career move for any politician seeking office. After all, prisoners have broken the law and presumably ‘gotten what they deserve, if you do the crime, you do the time. Since the abolition of capital punishment, the deprivation of an individual’s liberty through imprisonment is the most severe state sanction available in Ireland. Yet even the most cursory of examinations into the effects of imprisonment reveals a host of negative consequences for both those incarcerated and the loved ones they leave behind on the outside. Prisoners’ families, particularly their children, are often termed the ‘innocent victims’ of crime and undeserved punishment. The effects of imprisonment on families are the collateral or ripple effects of imprisonment. Families are seen as guilty by association, even though they are legally innocent and generally had no involvement in the offence. This is stigma by association. This stigma makes the imprisonment even more difficult for family members, and it can also mean that families are treated negatively by other members of their community, colleagues, the media, friends and other family members. Imprisonment tends to impose financial strain on the families of prisoners by decreasing the family income and by increasing family expenditure, due to costly visits and phone calls, and handing in money for their loved ones in prison. Visiting also involves a great deal of time, effort both physical and emotional and expense. Visiting can be quite an emotional experience, with both positive and negative feelings in the mix: for example due to the brevity of the visit saying ‘goodbye’ comes quickly, which can be distressing. The bedrock of all Christian social teaching is the protection of the dignity of human life. This principle is based on the belief that all persons are created in the image of God and thus are deserving of ‘care and attention that belong to beings of inestimable worth’. However, as research and first-hand testimonies show, imprisonment frequently has a negative and demoralising impact on both the individuals incarcerated and their families. To many in our society, the impact of imprisonment on prisoners and their families is a matter of little or no importance. The Irish Prison Chaplains observed that: Suffering is further exacerbated by a visiting routine that is far from family-friendly … The prison regime itself … does nothing to support the family unit that is shattered by the imprisonment of one of its members. The isolation that is experienced gives rise to high levels of distress for all concerned.
Parental stigmatization has been identified as one of the ways in which prisoners’ children are socially excluded and can lead to children becoming deviant themselves. The increased likelihood that children of prisoners will themselves experience incarceration has led one writer to argue that: ‘As evidence of intergenerational crime and incarceration continues to mount, every criminal justice and corrections policy affecting children of offenders should be scrutinised for its long-term implications. We do know that the majority of Irish prisoners are young, male and come from Dublin. In general, the prisoners surveyed were highly socially disadvantaged and their lives were characterised by instability. Almost a third of the prisoners came from families disrupted by desertion or separation on the part of parents. The fact is that 15% of prisoners had a father who had been in prison and 44 % had a sibling who had been in prison. 75% of the prisoners had fathered at least one child, 60% of these fathers played no active role in their families or in relationships with their children. Remembering that one of the Corporal Works of Mercy is “ to visit the imprisoned”. Do we do that as a society with Christian values?