Can People Change?

“People can change after they have killed someone,” she said during dinner. It came up after we fleetingly discussed a follow-up law degree and how people differ in opinion about this. I fell silent for a minute. Where I used to believe that people could change my view changed over the course of the years. Don’t get me wrong: believing in the good nature of people helps you stay unprejudiced. It helps you see the good in people and also act accordingly. What would happen if we found ourselves in a society where we stopped believing that people can change? It would, to say the least, be a disaster.

However, daily life has also proved us wrong over the course of the years. And I am not talking about Jan who cut classes in his younger years and never studied who suddenly saw the light and became a professor seven years later.

I am talking about people who commit the most horrible crimes and become a threat to society. About those who can choose a tbs-treatment. And when they aren’t treated they, in the end, will reoffend. The question if they can completely be treated with tbs will, even after research, still be unanswered. After all, there are as much successful stories as there are failures. The latter makes us think critically and reshape policies.

Even though the percentages of crimes repeating themselves after treatment are lower, they are still too high. The gruesomeness that accompanies those crimes make entire populations shiver and wake up. This shows us two things: the offered treatments are not sufficient and people can only change up to a certain extent. And never enough to take part in society again.

This column has been written after the horrible events in the Netherlands this year where the life of a young woman has tragically come to an end. It made society question whether perpetrators with high psychiatric disorders can ever take part in society again.

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