Does restorative justice mean forgiveness?
by Lisa Rea
This is a pretty controversial topic: forgiveness and restorative justice. Do all crime victims who support restorative justice therefore forgive? Does one come then the other? I don’t think so. I know many victims of violent crime who have forgiven. Many of their stories are online at Restorative Justice International (RJI) (see victims stories) and I have told others on this blog.
What is problematic to me is when advocates, experts, volunteers in the restorative justice field (or prison reform field) “expect” victims to forgive or worse they “urge” victims to forgive. To me, it is a journey that only the victim can make. Forgiveness can flow out of participating in a victim offender dialogue (i.e. a restorative justice meeting) but we cannot assume it will. It is rather presumptious for anyone to expect of victim of violent crime to forgive the offender. It’s wonderful when it happens but it is not a necessary outcome of restorative justice.
Restorative justice: The new way forward
from Lisa Rea's article in Baylor University's Christian Refelction issue on Prison:
.... Some might argue that our prison system was never meant to positively affect victims and communities. I will not analyze the original purpose of prisons in society, but we know that prisons have become something far different than what they were intended to be. Most societies have incarcerated individuals who were deemed to be a violent threat to others, but the United States prison system today has grown immensely beyond this rationale. As a result, the American state and federal prison population has expanded dramatically.
Penn State's response to child sexual abuse: What about the victims?
by Lisa Rea
As the story comes out in more detail about the alleged sexual abuse of children by Jerry Sandusky, former assistant football coach at Penn State, the coverage of the story seems to be more about the actions of veteran coach Joe Paterno--his resignation or the university's decision to fire him.
Listening to crime victims: North Carolina restorative justice conference
by Lisa Rea
When crime victims speak about the effect violent crime has had on their lives you have to listen. On June 9th I moderated a crime victims roundtable during the 3rd Annual Restorative Justice Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina coordinated this year by Campbell University Law School. The roundtable called "Listening to Crime Victims: Their Journeys Toward Healing" was sponsored by the Journey of Hope: From Violence to Healing. The four victims of violence who told their stories were Bill Pelke, chair, Journey of Hope: From Violence to Healing (Alaska), Stephen Watt, Stephen Watt Ministries (Wyoming) , Bess Klassen-Landis, musician and teacher (Vermont), and Kim Book, executive director, Victims Voices Heard (Delaware). No matter how many crime victims panels I have moderated the stories are always riveting and often what I hear the victims say is new even when I am familiar with the stories. I learn something new as the victims move along in their lives---their own personal journeys.
Victim's daughter meets IRA bomber: An interview with Jo Berry
On October 12, 1984 an IRA bomb planted by Patrick Magee demolished Brighton’s Grand Hotel in Brighton killing 5 people including Sir Anthony Berry, MP for Southgate and a member of the Thatcher government. The bomb hit on the last day of the conservative party conference held at the hotel. The IRA bomber Magee was sentenced to 35 years in prison. He was released after 14 years under the negotiated Good Friday agreement.
The following is from an interview Lisa Rea conducted with Jo Berry, daughter of Sir Anthony Berry. She did this interview from her home in Macclesfield UK. Jo Berry chose to meet with Pat Magee in November 2000. Today the two work together on many initiatives including addressing peace conferences, giving workshops in prisons, and speaking at universities.
Q. How did the meeting(s) happen? What was the process? Were you, and Pat, adequately prepared to meet? Walk us through what happened.
Laura's Law: Remembering the victims of violence
by Lisa Rea
Considering gun related violence and its impact on the victims, I remember the courageous work of Amanda and Nick Wilcox in Northern California in the name of their daughter, Laura. A recent press piece describes what they have done to fight violence since the shooting death of their daughter at the hands of Scott Thorpe on January 10, 2001.
Restorative Justice on Death Row: healing for crime victims?
by Lisa Rea
A death row inmate in Florida recently died in prison before the state could execute him. I became aware of Robert's case because I met his pen pal, Ines, a woman from Switzerland who had be-friended him through a pen pal organization, Lifespark, based in that country. After being interviewed by Ines for her organization's newsletter on the subject of forgiveness and restorative justice I learned more about the man she wrote in a Florida prison who had served some 20 years on death row. The story came to an end on December 3rd, 2010 when Robert unexpectedly died of cancer. But what I learned from my encounter with Ines was the real need to open doors more fully for all victims of violent crime wherever their offenders live and wherever their victims live (if they are still alive). I learned through Ines that her pen pal, once a very violent offender, was ready to attempt to make things right, as much as possible, with the victims or victim's family members that he had injured. The rap sheet on this man was very violent and longer than I'd ever seen.
I often learn things about restorative justice and how to apply it seemingly coincidentally. When cases draw me, or more likely the people behind the cases, I have a hard time saying no.
Can you work for the victim and the offender?
by Lisa Rea
I had two things happen to me recently that gave me pause. It is the story of two people. One is the story of a crime victim. The other is a story of an ex-offender.
The crime victim lost her husband to murder years ago in California. I've known this woman largely via email for many years as we both have worked for justice reform. This victim worked for an organization in California that often took positions regarding prison and sentencing policies than have not been positions I could support as an advocate of restorative justice. But regardless, she and I have been "friends". In time, I believe she saw me as a supporter of crime victims, something that I have worked hard to be. She was a good person and a nice human being.
Giving crime victims the right to meet with their offenders: Virginia legislative developments
by Lisa Rea
Should a crime victim have a right to meet his/her offender? It is very good to see that the Virginia State Legislature is considering the benefits that come with victim offender dialogue and restorative justice programming in general.
U.S. Sentencing Commission and restorative justice
The U.S. Sentencing Commission has now created a victim advisory group which will include restorative justice expert Howard Zehr and Illinois crime victim Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins.