Restorative justice and prisoner reintegration
The offender had already been in prison for five years. He had been convicted of rape. He and the victim had known each other; they had grown up in the same neighbourhood, he had been friends with the victim’s brother, and the victim’s father had been his teacher at primary school. The case, with his agreement, was referred to mediators by the director of his prison rehabilitation programme. He felt ashamed, and felt he needed the victim to hear him admit the crime, since at trial he had denied his role in the crime, under the guidance of his lawyer, and had in fact blamed the offence on the victim.
Murderers turned peacemakers
How is it that women, with dark pasts, serving time for murder and manslaughter, could possibly become honored peacemakers?
Their story is one of personal commitment to themselves and the community in which most are destined to live out their lives. “This is an environment filled with conflict and violence. There is a dire need and want for change,” says Susan Russo, one of the fifteen initial peacemakers, serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole at the largest prison for women in the world, Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, CA. “Mediation interests all of us because we are lifers and long-termers hoping to make a difference in teaching our peers that there is a better way.”
Beginning her quest in 2007, Sue Russo wrote over 50 handwritten letters from prison to mediators all over California. Her letters went unanswered until August of 2009 when one of her letters made it to me, Laurel Kaufer, Esq., a Southern California mediator and peacemaker and founder of the post-Katrina Mississippi Mediation Project.
After the crime: the power of restorative justice. Dialogues between victims and violent offenders
Violence, rape, murder and other abusive crimes: not usually pleasant subjects to read about, yet Susan Miller's book left this reader with a positive feeling. This is largely due to Miller herself, who presents the information in a straightforward, sympathetic but non-judgemental way; to Kim Book, who started the organization Victims' Voices Heard after her daughter was murdered; and to the participants themselves. Not all victims felt able to forgive, and this should not be a criterion for 'success'; but they followed the Amish precept: don't balance hurt with hate. Not all offenders accepted full responsibility. Miller divides restorative justice into diversion, taking the place of the criminal justice process for relatively minor cases, and 'therapeutic' RJ, where the offender is already in custody or has served a prison term. These cases are all in the latter category.
Colorado mother wishes for meeting with son's killers
The 3-year-old boy affectionately known as "Biscuit" was sleeping in the back of a parked old Cadillac when the shooting began.
Fourteen bullets hit the car in the drive-by shooting outside a northeast Denver duplex. Biscuit was shot in the head and died. His brother, Calvin, four days shy of his 7th birthday, and a teenage cousin were unhurt.
Sharletta Evans — mother of Biscuit, or Casson Xavier Evans — came to forgive the gunmen, who were 15 and 16 years old at the time of the Dec. 21, 1995, shooting. But it took years for her to decide she wanted to meet them in prison, hoping for closure.
A new Colorado law encourages the state Department of Corrections to facilitate such reconciliation meetings. Yet it's a process that requires they be safe and don't backfire on victims. And prison officials say there's simply no money to make it happen in the near future.
A scary, but exciting prospect
Recently, I was in the Bahamas to conduct a training seminar on the Sycamore Tree Project® for Prison Fellowship Bahamas. A diverse group of people including prison officers, volunteers, and police officers gathered to learn about this in-prison restorative justice programme. Through the day and half of training two emotions stood out: fear and excitement.
For many, especially the prison officers, the idea of bringing victims into prison to meet face-to-face with prisoners (but not their own offenders) was novel and a bit overwhelming. Although the programme has a positive track record in close to twenty countries, the training participants still had serious concerns about how this would work. For one thing, how do you handle victim anger? Why would victims want to go into prison? Isn’t this just setting up an explosive situation?
Dialogues can offer healing for crime victims
Recovering from a crime can be a deeply personal process for victims, but Maryland's corrections system offers victims who are interested a chance to interact with their attackers.
The state is able to arrange dialogues between victims and the person incarcerated for their crime.
Sycamore Tree: Week 3
A week with huge expectations: we have three visitors coming with us. Ann (not her real name) a young lady, victim of a robbery, whose car was violently attacked while she was in it and whose bags were stolen and Ray and Vi, whose son Christopher was murdered by a gang of violent youths high on alcohol and drugs. Ann and Ray and Vi are effectively surrogate victims for the men - a taster, in a group, of the experience of a victim – offender conference or mediation.
Victim impact programming in corrections: A team approach to reducing recidivism
from the note by Verna Wyatt in The Wall:
At first glance, it might seem counter-intuitive for victim advocates to work with inmates. However, the truth is, victim advocates and corrections professionals are not adversaries. We actually share a common goal: “no more victims.” Conducting Victim Impact classes for the incarcerated is a team approach to preventing victimization. There have been several studies looking at the effectiveness of victim impact programs across the country. A Iowa Department of Correction report, using two evidence-based studies, concluded victim impact is a contributing factor in reducing recidivism.
[You Have the Power (YHTP)] developed our own Victim Impact Curriculum based on our experience as victim advocates. We’ve learned from our class participants that the majority of offenders never think about their victim as a human being. Many never even think about their victim at all. One of our offender participants told us, “I’ve been incarcerated for over twenty years, and I never once thought about my victim until this class.”
Victims confront thief in jail
from the article in The Northern Echo:
The meeting was arranged by police as part of a restorative justice project and Mrs Turnbull, 57, of Deneside, had second thoughts about going along.
She said: “I had decided I was not going to go. I felt as if I could not face meeting him.
“It was only because the police turned up on my doorstep to pick me up that I went along because I did not want to waste their time.”
Mrs Turnbull spent 90 minutes with the offender in Durham Prison, where he is serving a five-year sentence.
So how do you know that an offender means it when they say sorry?
from Dave Walker's blog entry:
I attended a session in a well known, inner city prison full of local, inner city, young men with all the airs and graces of inner city life, drugs, violence and gang culture. These things don’t cease upon sentencing – if anything they can sometimes be more intense on a prison wing than on the street. Status can be everything on the wing and a new pair of trainers will do wonders for you on the respect scale.
To see a young man in an environment like this full of masculine front stand up to read a letter he has written to the parents of another young man he had beaten up in a gang related incident. To see this man physically shaking and weeping in front of the room I have described. To see some of the other men welling up at what they are hearing. To hear the regret that the realisation of their actions has induced: a realisation not at all prompted by the court process. To witness all this is the only way to have that big question answered. This is what I witnessed and I have absolutely no doubt as to their sincerity.