Dan Van Ness: Restorative justice and the problem of minority over-representation
Over-representation of minorities in the criminal justice system is a problem around the world. It raises questions about the fairness of the justice system itself and of how larger social justice problems influence the justice system.
David Daubney of Canada presented the 2011 International Prize for Restorative Justice
by Dan Van Ness
David Daubney has been awarded the 2011 International Prize for Restorative Justice in recognition of the public policy leadership he has provided in support of restorative justice. The presentation was made during the Prison Fellowship International World Convocation held in Toronto, Canada from 28 June – 2 July, 2011.
"For restorative justice to become the normal way of responding to crime, we need more than programs," said Daniel Van Ness, executive director of PFI's Centre for Justice and Reconciliation. "We also need public policy that reflects restorative principles and values so that the justice system itself becomes more restorative. With this award we recognize a man who as a legislator and an official in his country's justice ministry has helped shape restorative justice public policy in his nation and the world."
Restorative justice, survivors and the death penalty
by Dan Van Ness
Two interesting items appeared on my desktop today, both about the death penalty. One, titled Conn. Home Invasion Survivor Faces Long Court Case, begins this way:
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – At 52, Dr. William Petit faces years — perhaps decades — of emotionally draining court hearings before the two men charged with murdering his family in a 2007 home invasion may be convicted and executed.
He’ll have to listen repeatedly to the horrific details of the crimes against his wife, who was strangled, and two daughters, who were tied to their beds. All three died of smoke inhalation from a fire police say the intruders set as they fled Petit’s house after holding the family hostage for hours. Petit, a prominent physician who was beaten during the ordeal, will sit feet away from the defendants as they assert their rights and file appeal after appeal.
As lawmakers weigh the future of the death penalty in some states, officials are giving greater weight to the effect of prolonged death penalty cases on victims’ families. Petit realizes that the case might drag on for years, but he remains committed to seeing defendants Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky put to death.
Why penal reform should be a conservative issue
By Dan Van Ness
As reported earlier on RJOB, the Commission on Prisons Today recently released its report, Do Better, Do Less. Among other things it argues for expanded use of restorative justice programmes and policies.
One of the Commission members was Ian Loader, Professor of Criminology at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of All Souls College. In an article on conservativehome.blogs.com, the website of the British Conservative Party, he argues that conservatives should be at the forefront of penal reform.
Safety with Dignity: Alternatives to the Over-Policing of Schools
By Dan Van Ness
On July 8, 2009, three organizations -- the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and Make the Road New York -- released a report on six New York City schools that have created safe and nurturing environments without relying on metal detectors, aggressive policing and harsh discipline.
Based on the success of those schools, Safety with Dignity: Alternatives to the Over-Policing of Schools offers seven recommendations for replicating their experience in other NY City schools.
More cautionary news from the US
By Dan Van Ness
United States public officials are reconsidering sentencing policies, driven by the increasingly high cost implications of current laws and practices. Mandatory sentencing laws, including Three Strikes legislation adopted in a number of states, take discretion away from judges and require prison sentences (often quite lengthy) be served.
Dan Van Ness: Indigenous dispute resolution and restorative justice
It is common to link restorative justice and customary principles and traditional practices of justice. The argument is that the underlying beliefs of customary justice are that justice should repair harm and that the parties themselves should participate in deciding how that is done. These are principles shared by restorative justice. However, there is a dark side to this relationship.