Towards a Restorative Society: a problem-solving response to harm
by Dobrinka Chankova, South- West University, Bulgaria:
This is not the first pamphlet or book in which Dr Martin Wright - a convinced victims’ advocate and one of the doyens of restorative justice in Europe – critiques contemporary sentencing policies and penitentiary systems. He has extensively published on endemic abuses of closed institutions and the need for immediate reform of the failing criminal justice systems, proposing a new crime policy, based on restorative justice. Lately he has advocated for applying restorative practices in new domains - schools, neighborhood, community, workplaces, etc. and is leading us to a genuine restorative society.
In his latest pamphlet Dr Wright reconsiders the confused logic on which present policies are based; measures that could make a difference and how a restorative approach could transform people’s and society lives. With his inherent objectivity and scientific precision he pays due attention to the objections to and tensions in restorative justice and how its principles could be put into practice throughout society.
“Beyond All Belief” — Restorative Practices at St Edmund’s Primary School, Norfolk, UK
from the article by Lisa Cook posted on iirp.com:
This is what restorative practices looks like at St Edmund’s [for children 3 to 11 years old]:
When the children come in each morning they are quick to sort themselves into a circle. They are keen to get started. The class teacher starts off with a greeting. This is passed around the circle and varies depending on the age of the children.
News about abusive texts stuns parents of dead girl
The parents of a 15-year-old girl walked out of court yesterday when they learned that their daughter's lover stood by and watched his wife send abusive texts to her.
The girl killed herself days later.
In the Rotorua District Court, Pelesasa Tiumalu, 28, was jailed for four years and three months for having sex with an underage girl.
Nigerian lawyers insist on criminal justice reforms
....Professor Kelvin Nwosu a former Director Academics of the Nigerian Law School had argued that the country's legal system which places much emphasis on retributive rather than restorative justice "has given rise to lack of remorse on the part of offenders who now demand proof of their culpability during trial rather than show remorse."
Nwosu, who was speaking in Abuja during the launch of the book: "Current Issues on Sentencing, Custodial Reforms and The Criminal Administration in Nigeria", written in honour of Justice Lawal Hassan Gummi, the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, wondered why the sentencing and custodial option should be adopted and thereafter public funds are spent again to decongest the prisons.
....When he joined the congregation for a Sunday service they saw a quiet, shy young man barely past boyhood. As they listened to him they finally understood what had happened and at last knew that the church had not been the target of a hate crime. A nagging fear vanished. Now it was clear that the fire was an accident and the boys had emptied every fire extinguisher trying to put it out and left not knowing that an ember would ignite and burn down the building.
The young man listened quietly as each person told him what the fire had meant to them personally. When every person had finished he told them that until that moment he had only thought of it as an empty building but now he saw faces of people, a community, whose lives had been impacted by the fire. He said he was truly sorry and ashamed and offered to come back and work for the church.
Where do we draw the line?
Sometimes interesting things happen when I’m pre-conferencing juvenile offenders with their parents. Often, it’s the juvenile and his/her mother there for the meeting. Generally, we start with the parent being defensive, protective of his/her child. Yet, as we discuss the incident that brought their family to restorative justice, other things tend to come up such as conflict between the parent and juvenile. Sometimes these are related directly to the offense sometimes they are not. I always feel that I’m walking a fine line as facilitator when this happens.
Coetzee does not talk about his childhood. He speaks about the planning that went into the bombing, how he was chosen for his excellent military skills, the years he has spent in prison. He asks for their questions, and the group responds. How did he learn to hate black people? How did he unlearn this hatred? How does he spend his days now? Is he sorry? And if he is so sorry, what can he give them? Coetzee admits he has nothing material to give the world except the leather belt that holds up his overalls. But, he says, God willing, if he gets out of jail, he can begin to attempt to compensate for what he has done. "There are children now in South Africa," he says, "children without parents. They might be tempted to get into violent gangs, to follow anger instead of love." He says, "I can show them that the first life you have to change is your own."
Zimbabwe: Calls for restorative justice must be heeded now
from an entry on Kubatana.net:
This becomes a strong case for the open discussion of what evil has been spawned by political violence and the need for a truth and reconciliation commission so people can move on with their lives. Yet some people in their wisdom think the past can take care of itself by natural processes of time and have been arrogant to calls for a naming and shaming of people behind the raping and killing of wives and mothers since independence.
The question for many is that what really can be expected from the people who are accused of heinous political crime and still control state apparatus that would in essence be in charge of letting the law take its course? So does the nation wait for that epoch when they are no longer in government and then they are tracked and shot down like rabid dogs?
Meet the modern high schooler
....Meanwhile, it's hard to be angst-ridden when you are the product of anti-bullying and self-esteem initiatives. Many high schools have a part-time addictions councillor and a gay-straight alliance. Programs like restorative justice, peer mediation and Online Safety Week bring a sense of justice and consequences to students on a day-to-day basis.
Not Just an Apology
Recently, I read the headline Apologising to victims will not reduce reoffending rates in a Google news alert. I quickly scanned the article. The author was very critical of restorative justice, questioning the possibility that restorative processes could help lower reoffending rates. In describing the criminal justice system, Mark Johnson says, “The job of the criminal justice system is not to be victim-centric but to be detached, clinical and fair.” He goes on to say, “…how can empowering victims cut reoffending? Only working with offenders can do that.”
As I finished reading his arguments, I had to agree with part of what Johnson said. But, I also realised that some of the criticism has a lot to do with a misunderstanding of restorative justice.