Several of the family members share their disbelief, deep grief, and depression after the crime. Their comments on “forgiveness” illustrate the struggle that many victims face with the concept. Each family member interviewed had a different view -- some forgave, others couldn’t, and at least one said it would disrespect Steve to forgive the offender. In preparing for the face-to-face meeting with the offender, Therese describes “forgiveness” as being owned by the victim and that was very empowering.
For Therese, the journey toward understanding included a Masters of Science in Criminal Justice as a way of making sense of the reasons for or underlying factors to crime as well as the criminal justice response. A discussion on restorative justice offers stark observations on how the system does not serve the needs of victims, offenders, or the community. It is a call for something else, a justice response that sees the humanity in each person and provides a pathway for restoration.
The film’s final segment chronicles Therese’s journey to victim offender dialogue with the man who killed her brother. Representatives from the South Carolina Victim Assistance Network discuss the process and the preparation needs for both victims and prisoners. Therese is seen entering the prison and meeting the offender. Their conversation is honest with Therese asking questions about how the offender saw his actions and how his behaviour will be different upon release from prison. In describing his reasons for agreeing to meet with Therese, the offender talks about his concern for her family as well as Steve’s children. He also talks about his own life circumstances and how he wished he could change the events of that night in 2003.
Throughout the video, we see clips from Therese’s video diary as she shares various emotions stemming from Steve’s death. The morning after the meeting in the prison, she describes feeling good but being emotionally, physically and mentally drained. In later comments, she describes leaving the prison with a feeling of liberation as if a weight had been removed from her shoulders.
The Final Gift provides a real look at the many emotions surrounding crime and loss as well as the difficult journey of coming into a restorative process. It offers valuable insights for anyone interested in working with victims, criminal justice reform, and facilitating restorative processes.