Increasing restitution for crime victims: A toolkit
The National Center for Victims of Crime recently released a “Restitution Toolkit,” which provides state agencies and external organizations information on instituting or furthering restitution opportunities for crime victims. The information is in-depth and comprehensive, including:
Missouri prisons grow 50 tons of food for pantries
from the article on stltoday.com:
Missouri prisoners have raised more than 50 tons of vegetables and fruit that have been given to food pantries around the state.
The Department of Corrections says this year's harvest was significantly higher than last year's, when the agency donated 29 tons of produce through its Restorative Justice Garden Program.
Under the program, the seeds and plants are donated to the Corrections Department, which then donates all the resulting food to local pantries.
Victims' advocate says more energy should be invested in restitution programs
Justice systems in the North should invest more energy in developing restitution processes that work, according to a leading Canadian victims’ advocate.
Irvin Waller, a professor at the University of Ottawa and the president of the International Organization for Victim Assistance, was a speaker at Justice for All: A Comparison of the Crime Victims’ Rights in the U.S. and Canada, put on by the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice section this morning.
“We know from the social science evidence that well-organized restorative justice, which includes restitution payments, not only increases victim satisfaction compared to the normal process, but secondly actually reduces recidivism,” Waller said. “There is a real opening here. It’s win-win all around for justice at times of austerity.”
Giving back: RCI’s Restorative Justice Program helps inmates help others
On a recent Friday morning, 13 inmates at the Racine Correctional Institution in Sturtevant diligently worked on their needlework, their nimble fingers pulling together tiny stitches or weaves. The fruits of their toil lay strewn about the tables: a Mickey Mouse look-alike, a doll, random bears and other stuffed animals, as well as scarves, hats and more slowly took shape.
Those bears and lamb pillows have made their way into little hands around the community, and those mittens and gloves will keep others warm this winter.
Charity Crafts is part of the prison’s Restorative Justice Program, through which inmates find ways to give back to the community, according to Tommie Thomas, RCI program supervisor.
Restorative justice and large organizations as victims
One of the ongoing challenges we face here at Mediation Services is how to meaningfully involve corporations and large businesses in the restorative justice process.
The process is relatively clear when there is an offender and a victim – or even when there are multiple victims and/or offenders. Individuals have needs and interests and a mediator works to bring people together for meaningful and fruitful exchange. Of course, every situation is unique and demands an “out of the box” thinking in order to make any process effective for the participants.
But when the “victim” is a large corporation, there are at least two unique challenges for a mediator to address:
Helping the community, building connections
Recently, we shared the article “Give prisoners the chance to help the community” by Erwin James in which he describes prison as consisting of “enforced idleness” and working to “create model prisoners instead of model citizens.” Erwin describes the benefits of programmes allowing prisoners to do something for the community. Referring to his own participation in a Braille unit when incarcerated for murder, he says, “...it was the first time in our lives that we had experienced the satisfaction that can be gained from helping other people.”
I thought about Erwin’s article as I read about prisoners making trauma bears in the Australian state of Victoria. The programme – a partnership between Prison Fellowship Australia and the prisons – teaches prisoners how to sew and stuff the soft toys that are used by emergency service personnel to comfort children in trauma situations. The prisoners may also pay for the materials to make a soft toy for a loved one. Programme volunteers describe the paradox of watching the men who have caused harm work to create the soft toys. As described in the article, “Masculine hands clenched tight ready to harm or reaching out to thieve and finally bound for prison now develop something creative and productive that brings joy to traumatised children and their loved ones.”
Victims' Commissioner highlights financial costs for families in the aftermath of murder
from the blog entry on Justice:
Families who have lost loved ones under terrible circumstances are facing costs of £37,000 on average as they struggle to pick up the pieces, according to figures released today.
Give prisoners the chance to help the community
"I want to be out there, helping people," says one prisoner in the report, who could have been speaking for many of those I met while serving my own 20 years of prison time.
....Probably the best such experience was when I joined the Braille Unit in my first long-term high security prison. The 12 of us who worked in the unit had all been convicted of murder and for most of us it was first time in our lives that we had experienced the satisfaction that can be gained from helping other people. The prison held more than 700 of the most serious offenders in the country, but the only official opportunity for any of us to put something back into the outside community that we had harmed so badly were those 12 places in the Braille Unit.
Restorative justice and the challenge of prison reform
Crucially, prisoners have to learn to accept responsibility for the harm their criminal activities have caused to individual victims, family and neighbourhood. This largely transformative component is implemented at the beginning of any given prison sentence and is maintained throughout the term of custody.
....Wherever practical and possible, prisoners are made responsible for any financial compensation owed to victims. To this end, a restoration fund may be established and prisoners able to earn money in order to pay victim compensation. This encourages a degree of responsibility in prisoners whilst providing reparation for victims.
California's victims restitution fund running on empty
California's fund to help victims of crime is teetering on insolvency, with state officials this week scheduled to consider several cost-cutting moves to keep the account from going broke by next year.
The state restitution fund is the payer of last resort for crime victims and the oldest such program in the country. It has covered more than $2 billion worth of doctor's bills, burial costs and other expenses from hundreds of thousands of claims since it began in 1965.
....Victims advocates point to other causes for the fund's troubles: money taken by other parts of state government.