More kumbaya, fewer criminals?
Do criminals just need to talk and get some perspective? Yes, the idea seems fluffy, but it looks like some types of talk actually work. "Restorative justice"--in which convicted criminals actually meet their victims--is rapidly gaining ground in the UK.
In one case recounted by Libby Brooks in the Guardian, the victim of a violent burglary wound up shouting at his attacker, telling him "he had crushed every belief [the victim] had that [he] could handle [himself] and protect [his] family." For the attacker, "this was the moment his perspective shifted irrevocably." Despite a history of criminality, he has not reoffended in the past eight years, and is in fact working as a "restorative conference facilitator."
Mugging victim Zoe Harrison 'helped to recover' by meeting her attacker Aaron Burns via restorative justice
When Zoe Harrison first came across Aaron Burns he held a knife to her throat and battered her so brutally he was spattered in her blood.
The last time Zoe, 26, came face to face with her mugger, she left him sobbing for forgiveness.
This is the power of restorative justice - making criminals say sorry to victims.
Locking up non-violent youths costs millions and does little to reduce crime
Whilst much of our work focuses on unnecessary imprisonment, we also champion alternatives to custody which have the potential to offer young people, and the communities they come from, a better deal. This is where restorative justice, a way of resolving conflict and repairing harm by bringing the offender and the victim together through closely managed ‘conferences’ or meetings, comes in.
The case for restorative justice, or restorative approaches as it is also known, has been building on the ground for some time now, with many schools and residential children's homes around the country using restorative practices to great effect as an alternative to traditional forms of punishment and conflict resolution.
True community policing means restorative justice
Community Policing has become one of those "assumed good things" that we all are supposed to support. But what do we mean by community policing? Does it mean we should be happy with just having a police officer at a community meeting, or on the street? Is a beat cop the whole story? Is there a role for the community beyond being informants?
My view of Community Policing has to do with merging community values and existing statues. Local communities need to be involved in helping community youth become aware and understand what is acceptable and what is not.
Core capacities of restorative justice practitioners
In January a small group gathered in Seattle for several days of restorative justice dialogue and we’ve continued the discussion since then by email. (The participants are listed below.) One of the questions raised was what we considered to be the core capacities of effective restorative justice practitioners. Aaron Lyons, a practitioner in Vancouver and a CJP alumnus, took the lead on this discussion and I invited him to contribute a guest blog entry. The following is his contribution.
Hi fellow Howard’s blog enthusiasts -
Recently I’ve been asking, “What are the core capacities, in terms of values, analytical tools, and skills, of an effective restorative justice practitioner?” Below are a few thoughts, shaped by but not necessarily representative of, the discussion among my Seattle mentors. What would you challenge or add to this list?
Getting feedback is awesome, we should give it more often, directly.
NOTE: One of the reasons that Kris' blog is so useful is that she is transparent about her experiences as a facilitator and agency director. In this entry she talks about two kinds of feedback she received recently and how she intends to use both.
At the beginning of Circle, we write a relationship value on paper plates, we place these on the floor in front of us. We make a commitment to honor these values in Circle. If they are good values for our relationships outside of Circle, they are good values for our relationships in Circle.
We do a give and get activity. One person starts by picking a plate and giving it to someone else in Circle. An explanation of how the value was demonstrated and why it was given is part of the activity. Once you get a plate its your turn to give one.
Yesterday I got two plates: LOVE and INTEGRITY. I also got a phone call I was ‘reported’ to a statewide association. Getting the plates and getting the phone call, very different types of feedback, but I am going to accept them both as awesome. Let me try to explain that:
Economic analysis of interventions for young adult offenders
This report summarises an economic analysis of alternative interventions for young adult offenders. It concludes that, for all offenders aged 18-24 sentenced in a Magistrate’s court for a non-violent offence1 in a given year:
- Diversion from community orders to pre-court RJ conferencing schemes (following a police triage service in which police officers make an immediate assessment of the need and likely benefit from a community intervention) is likely to produce a lifetime cost saving to society of almost £275 million (£7,050 per offender). The costs of RJ conferencing are likely to be paid back within the first year of implementation. During the course of two parliaments (10 years), implementation of such a scheme would be likely to lead to a total net benefit to society during this period of over £1 billion.
- Diversion from custody to community orders via changes in sentencing guidelines is likely to produce a lifetime cost saving to society of more than £12 million (£1,032 per offender). The costs of changing sentencing guidelines are likely to be paid back within three years of implementation. During the course of two parliaments (10 years), implementation of such a scheme would be likely to lead to a total net benefit to society during this period of almost £33 million.
- Diversion from trial under adult law to trial under juvenile law following maturity assessment is likely to produce a lifetime cost saving to society of almost £5 million (£420 per offender). The costs of maturity assessments are likely to be paid back within five years of implementation. During the course of two parliaments (10 years), implementation of such a scheme would be likely to lead to a total net benefit to society during this period of almost £473,000.
Restorative justice: A travelogue
from Ryan Hollon's entry on Dr. Pop Blog:
I was heading to South Africa as part of a restorative justice delegation from the Windy City. Our group brought with it a diverse history of activism, action, and hustling for change.
Some of the delegates were working to transform the disciplinary culture of the public school system, others were community leaders deeply rooted in neighborhood life, several had been working for decades to reform the ways our society responds to domestic violence, and many in the group had dedicated their lives to working with young people to shift power in their communities.
All of us were practitioners of conflict resolution methods like peace circles, and all of us shared a basic belief in the power of groups to come together to address difficult issues, to deal with the conflicting forces in our lives.
'Pizza thief' walks the line
From the Los Angeles Times article by Jack Leonard:
If he ever returns to prison, Jerry Dewayne Williams knows he'll probably never get out.
To stay clear of trouble, he has left behind the Compton neighborhood where police knew him and cut ties with friends from wilder days. Once a hard partyer, the 43-year-old says he prefers the company of a mystery novel or a "Law and Order" episode on television.
Williams is one of more than 14,000 felons who, under California's three-strikes law, face a possible life sentence if they commit another felony. But few, if any, grasp the reality of that threat better than Williams.
Bullying: School, texting & cyber harassment is emotional assault
Bullying has become increasingly common in schools throughout the United States and studies have found signs of an apparent connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide. When the bullying moves to the Internet, the trauma to the victim is astronomically escalated. It is full-blown emotional assault.
This issue hit home when my daughter was in 7th grade. Although she survived the intense school and cyber bullying she endured for several weeks at the hands of those that used to be her "friends", the wounds were deep and the signs were there. When she began wearing dark clothes all the time and her grades started slipping, her mood becoming dark and sad without any apparent reason - at least not due to anything at home - I knew something was up.