In existential psychology, the responsibility is referred to when “a person is responsible completely for his/her life: not only for certain actions, but also for inability to take any”. This definition is sometimes forgotten by people who jump on board to facilitate the social inclusion of young (ex-)offenders and yet, that causes a lot of problems.
While in contact with (ex-)convicts, it is possible that one will get attached to some of the people after getting to know them. It is natural and perfectly normal, but sometimes the attachment can get so strong that the person may start strongly caring for the imprisoned youngster and seek to provide any personal help he or she can (e.g. constant emotional support, daily calls, life coaching, etc). Sounds beautiful? Yes, until certain limits are overstepped, and those are: taking full responsibility to (help) change the (ex-)convict. When the interaction between the (ex-)convict and the worker becomes close in terms of frequency, openness and trust, the worker may be led into thinking that he/she has a crucial say in (ex-)convicts life. Soon after, the person may unconsciously take full responsibility for the imprisoned youngster’s actions.
The responsibility for the other person’s actions practically is impossible, but one might get caught into having such a feeling. It manifests usually as obsessive overthinking or/and willingness to control the person on each step of his/her way. Overthinking can be compared to being in love: imagine, you wake up in the morning thinking what the other person is doing, why (s)he hasn’t contacted you for a while, is (s)he keeping his/her word and acting nicely in the facility, did (s)he get any more fines?”. One youth worker we met during our project claimed that she suddenly came to realization that her personal life was put aside, emotional resources wasted on constant thinking about something that is totally not in her hands. Additionally, when taking the responsibility for someone else’s actions also causes feelings of guilt after they commit the crime again, or break the promises and misbehave within the bars.
What is more, not only the youth worker will have to go through crucial emotional burdens if he/she will take over the responsibility for someone else, but also he/she will most probably push away the (ex-)convict. As it was mentioned above, taking the full responsibility may lead to obsessive and controlling behaviour. Control is negatively perceived by (ex-)offenders and it is as well quickly felt, which, in turn, makes them want to get away.