Restorative justice and the economy of grace
Oct 21, 2011
From the article by Derek Flood:
One of the last places where we still embrace the idea of punitive justice today is in our prison systems. Yet even within our criminal justice system there is an increasing awareness that a strictly punitive approach rarely produces reform. Offenders who simply serve their time commonly go right back out and commit more crimes because the root factors have not been dealt with. In contrast, where rehabilitation programs have been made available, there have been dramatic drops in repeat offenses. In other words, this is not merely a matter of compassion, but of societal self-interest, because it means working to stop the "revolving door" of our prison system.
...While punitive justice does little to actually mend wrong, restorative justice in contrast is all about making things right, about changing negative dynamics and helping people to overcome hurt. That's what grace is all about: It does not ignore problems, but in fact addresses them on a much deeper level than punitive justice does. So while grace may be in conflict with a strictly punitive understand of justice, it is not in conflict with restorative justice. In fact, grace is all about restorative justice.
... On an international scale, the way the Truth and Reconciliation Commission responded to the violence and injustice of Apartheid stands out sharply against the backdrop of so many other places in our world where cycles of violence just seem to be never-ending, each side finding a justification for their continued retaliation. In the entertainment industry, it is extremely rare to find a movie that plumbs the depths of grace, and so common to see yet another film or television show that glorifies violence and paints the world in black and white. Yet when something like the musical "Les Miserables" comes along, it is an international sensation.
...These are all lofty examples, and they can therefore feel overwhelming and out of reach. But the issue here is not ultimately about being virtuous or good (let alone is it about tolerating injustice!). It is about allowing healing to take place in our lives, and refusing to be sucked into the perpetual cycle of violence and toxicity. Grace is indeed hard, but even taking a few small faltering steps in its direction can open the doors for healing to start and violence to stop. That's why grace is not an ideal luxury, but quite literally a life and death necessity. Grace is the very means by which true justice comes about.Read the full article.