Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not hurt others.
They’re straightforward and unspoken rules that allow us to live in a society without crime. But despite their simplicity, there exists a large number of criminals and entire neighbourhoods are rife with crime.
It is easier to decide not to understand how this happens. It is much more convenient to get angry at the individuals who do things that are considered morally wrong. After all, if you and most of the people you know can live without compromising your morals, surely there is no reason others cannot.
But there are reasons. Many reasons.
The majority of individuals who end up in prison come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Many come from broken homes and grew up being abused. Many are illiterate and are untrained for any kind of vocational work.
With that kind of background finding a job is challenging and finding a job that offers a living wage is even more difficult. This has resulted in scores of people turning to crime just to make sure they can survive to next day.
It is easy to sit on your high horse and generalise criminals as worthless when you get to eat on a regular basis, have adequate clothing, and get to sleep in comfortable beds.
It is easy to oversimplify the solution to a hungry person’s problem is to get a job when a good education has provided you with decent paying work.
It is easy to be uncompromising when you are not constantly faced with the decision to be morally upright or to see your children starve.
The truth is most of us do not have the faintest idea what it’s like to come from a very disadvantaged background, so we have the privilege to easily choose right over wrong.
Does this make crime under certain circumstances excusable? No. But it should make it more understandable, and push us to not write people off. That way we can start thinking of real solutions instead of just blaming people for the situations they find themselves in.
That way we don’t forget that to err is human, and criminals are not really much different from you and me.