A little girl's memories stir questions about good and evil: Terror in a small town
....I first met Rebecca a year ago, after writing a story about a man who survived his family's massacre. She told me she had a similar tale to share.
It began with death threats over the phone, she said, then letters and drive-by shootings. The church and parsonage were bombed -- 10 times to be precise.
The terror stretched on for more than six years.
Neither local nor state nor federal lawmen were able to stop the assaults. It ended in the parsonage, three days before Easter in 1978, as the family sat down to dinner.
Victim offender dialogue
from the article on JUST Alternatives:
For offenders, victim-centered VOD in crimes of severe violence begins with their acknowledging complete and personal responsibility for what they have done. This means being willing to comprehend the impacts of their actions and behaviors, to face and feel a personal sense of accountability for them, and to feel remorse for the full effects of those actions upon the victims/survivors. It means having a truer understanding of the depth of the pain and grief and suffering they have caused.
Victim-centered VOD for offenders is not merely about apology, especially for what can never be restored or made whole again. There are many victims/survivors who do not even want an apology if it is uninformed by the survivor’s experience. They do not want the offenders in their cases to be allowed the “easy grace” of apology. They alone can tell offenders exactly how what happened has affected them, and they alone are the ones who need and deserve to be in control of when – and whether – to receive an apology.
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.
Where are the personal apologies for the Freedom Riders?
There has been only a single personal apology for the events that happened 50 years ago. Elwin Wilson, a former member of the KKK, drew the first blood of the Freedom Ride when he attacked John Lewis as he stepped into the bus station in Rock Hill, S.C. He traveled to Washington, D.C. in 2009 to find John Lewis -- now Congressman Lewis -- and to tell him he was sorry.
Congressman Lewis described the meeting to Oprah like this: "He said, 'I attacked you, and I'm sorry. I want to apologize. Will you accept my apology?' And I said, 'Yes.' And he gave me a hug, and he started crying. I hugged him back, and I shed some tears also."
"He's the first and only person who has ever apologized to me."
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.
To forgive isn't divine, it's deeply human
Listening to a programme on the radio about restorative justice a few years ago, I was reduced to sudden and copious tears by an exchange between a grieving mother and her daughter's imprisoned killer. The mother, though well aware she would never get over the loss of her child, was prepared, after long and painful self-examination, to offer the killer her forgiveness. He, though well aware that he could not undo what he had done, felt he had been given, through the forgiveness of the person to whom he had caused the most appalling suffering, a chance for redemption. His contrition and recognition of the hurt he had inflicted, a demonstration of the compassion so lacking in the commission of the crime, was an essential part of what had made the mother able to forgive.
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.”
NPR: Victims confront offenders, face to face
from Laura Sullivan's interview with Sujatha Baliga on Talk of the Nation:
BALIGA: Yes. And I said there's no chance. You know, this is not a case for restorative justice. The system is not amenable, particularly in your state. And I can't tell too many details, because we're still finishing things up with that case right now. It's not quite a done deal yet. But we're close.
And the mother of this young man was so persistent and told me that she had actually been meeting with the girl's parents. She and her husband were meeting with the girl's parents, and that the girl's parents actually were the one interested in restorative justice. And she said, Can I give them your information? I said I'd be happy to talk to them and tell you the same thing I'm telling you, which is that this is not happening.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
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.