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.
Is restorative justice suited for gender-based violence?
from Sylvia Clute's article on Genuine Justice:
Feminists have long decried the deficiencies in the traditional criminal law system when it comes to gender-based violence. The criminal law system fails victims, offenders and the community; there are no winners. Most cases are never reported, and the reported cases have a high attrition rate. Few cases are actually prosecuted.
According to Melanie Randall, a law professor with expertise in legal remedies for gender violence, the needs of the victim are diametrically opposed to the needs of the criminal law system. That system is driven by complex rules; it challenges the victim’s credibility; she has no control; she must tell the state’s story instead of a coherent narrative around what happened to her. There is no protection against recall, and there is no safe face to face confrontation.
Listening to crime victims: North Carolina restorative justice conference
by Lisa Rea
When crime victims speak about the effect violent crime has had on their lives you have to listen. On June 9th I moderated a crime victims roundtable during the 3rd Annual Restorative Justice Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina coordinated this year by Campbell University Law School. The roundtable called "Listening to Crime Victims: Their Journeys Toward Healing" was sponsored by the Journey of Hope: From Violence to Healing. The four victims of violence who told their stories were Bill Pelke, chair, Journey of Hope: From Violence to Healing (Alaska), Stephen Watt, Stephen Watt Ministries (Wyoming) , Bess Klassen-Landis, musician and teacher (Vermont), and Kim Book, executive director, Victims Voices Heard (Delaware). No matter how many crime victims panels I have moderated the stories are always riveting and often what I hear the victims say is new even when I am familiar with the stories. I learn something new as the victims move along in their lives---their own personal journeys.
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.
Doing justice honourably
A crucial question in this election year is how do we do justice honourably with both victims and offenders? How can recidivism continue downwards and how do public attitudes change to being solidly evidence-based? How do we face the challenge of changing the justice landscape? Can we provide the moral courage to help our society take steps towards a more just and merciful society?
The night I forgave my daughter’s killer
....I knew the kidnapper could be liable for the death penalty, and I wanted him to hang high. However, I had always tried to live my faith with integrity, and my conscience was calling me to forgive my enemy. I realized if I gave myself to that desire for revenge, it would obsess and consume me. So, I promised to cooperate with whatever could move my heart from fury to forgiveness.
One year to the minute after the kidnapper had taken Susie, he called me at my home in Michigan. He was calling to taunt me. Even though he was smug and nasty, to my own real surprise, I was filled with genuine concern and compassion, which thwarted his intention to rile me up and then hang up.
Victim impact statements: Some concerns about current practice and proposed changes
Currently victims have the right to submit a VIS in a variety of ways, though it is usually in writing, and to request the opportunity to present the statement in open court. The judge has the discretion to deny this request and to edit the statement if there are concerns about its length or content. Under the new proposal, victims will have the right to use their own words in the VIS and “to address the offender so that the offender may better perceive the impact of the offence on the victim”. For serious offences (s.29 of the Victims Rights Act), victims will have an automatic right to present their VIS in court, though the judge retains the right to manage the process.
from SBS Dateline:
Dateline has a touching story of friendship between a woman who was shot and critically injured, and the stranger who attempted to kill her.
Jackie Millar took years to recover after she was shot in the head. She remains almost blind and permanently brain damaged, unable to even remember bringing up her own sons.
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:
I just hugged the man who murdered my son
While most StoryCorps interviews are between family and friends, this conversation comes from two people who easily could have been enemies.
In 1993, Oshea Israel was a teenage gang member in Minneapolis, Minnesota. One night at a party Oshea got into a fight, which ended when he shot and killed another boy.
Now 34, Oshea has finished serving his prison sentence for second-degree murder.