Restorative Justice on Death Row: healing for crime victims?
by Lisa Rea
A death row inmate in Florida recently died in prison before the state could execute him. I became aware of Robert's case because I met his pen pal, Ines, a woman from Switzerland who had be-friended him through a pen pal organization, Lifespark, based in that country. After being interviewed by Ines for her organization's newsletter on the subject of forgiveness and restorative justice I learned more about the man she wrote in a Florida prison who had served some 20 years on death row. The story came to an end on December 3rd, 2010 when Robert unexpectedly died of cancer. But what I learned from my encounter with Ines was the real need to open doors more fully for all victims of violent crime wherever their offenders live and wherever their victims live (if they are still alive). I learned through Ines that her pen pal, once a very violent offender, was ready to attempt to make things right, as much as possible, with the victims or victim's family members that he had injured. The rap sheet on this man was very violent and longer than I'd ever seen.
I often learn things about restorative justice and how to apply it seemingly coincidentally. When cases draw me, or more likely the people behind the cases, I have a hard time saying no.
International restorative justice week: miracles and certainty
This week is International Restorative Justice Week. Last week on Australian Story, Kerry Tucker told her story of restoration back into the community after being incarcerated for seven years. She’s currently finishing her PhD and lecturing at Swinburne University. It’s a remarkable story and she’s an inspirational woman. What I found particularly moving about her story was how much of a struggle she found re-entering the community post-imprisonment, even though she is a strong woman with exceptional communication skills, family support to fall back on and educational qualifications. She said herself, ‘After a few days out, I just wanted to go back to prison’.
Rethinking the politics of crime
It is fair to say that many American criminal justice officials live in fear of finding themselves in a similar position to Crispin Blunt: out on an island, on the wrong side of the “tough on crime” debate. This understandable fear has broad consequences for the field of criminal justice. Among other things, it creates a risk-averse environment where both policymakers and practitioners are reluctant to challenge the status quo and test new ideas.
This is a problem that Aubrey Fox and I examine in our new book Trial and Error in Criminal Justice Reform: Learning from Failure (2010: Urban Institute Press). The central argument of the book is that criminal justice officials should adopt a lesson from the field of science, embracing the trial-and-error process and talking more honestly about how difficult it is to change the behavior of offenders and reduce chronic offending in crime-plagued urban neighborhoods.
Latinos engaged in restorative justice
Latinos are highly represented among the incarcerated population, but they are not just standing by while this happens. Their efforts to implement restorative justice to bring healing to their communities are being noticed and being supported by promoters in this field.
Approach with caution not cynicism: Rape and restorative justice
From the post by Nikki Godden on Inherently Human:
Typically, feminists are resistant to the idea of responding to rape – or sexual violence more generally – through restorative justice. After decades of campaigning to get the harms women suffer recognised in politics and law, their concerns that such a move will trivialise rape and provide only ‘cheap justice’ are fair. So too are the criticisms that restorative justice cannot address or appropriately account for the gendered power imbalances between the victim and offender, and that, as a result, it may cause further harm to the victim and fail to protect her and others from future violence. While this means I’m wary of restorative justice as a response to rape, I do think there is value in exploring this idea. Likewise, in a 2010 report Jennifer Brown et al. mention restorative justice as an ‘expanded justice alternative’ that could be considered – although they are similarly careful to set the sceptical feminist scene.
Response by Dr Martin Wright to European Commission consultation document: Taking action on rights, support and protection of victims of crime and violence
The key to this reply is in the last answer: that in principle restorative justice practices should be available to all victims, subject only to the safeguards mentioned in the reply to Question 17. Restorative processes are in the interests not only of victims, but also of offenders and the community.
Victim-offender dialogue is valuable as an end in itself as well as a means to an end. For many victims, action to make the offender less likely to re-offend is at least as high on their list of priorities as monetary compensation or reparation through work. When the victim and offender agree on one of these methods of reparation, it is incumbent on the community to provide the resources to enable offenders to carry them out.
Restorative Services: Bringing a Framework for Improved School Culture to Public Schools
From the article by Lynn Welden in the Restorative Practices E-Forum for 21 September 2010:
A new program is bringing restorative practices to schools. Community Service Foundation and Buxmont Academy (CSF Buxmont) — which operate day-treatment schools, foster homes and supervision programs for at-risk youth in eastern Pennsylvania, USA, and are model programs of the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) Graduate School — recently launched the Restorative Services program. Developed in response to a growing need on the part of public schools to deal with at-risk students on site, the Restorative Services program was introduced in fall 2009.
In the past, young people with behavioral, emotional and substance-abuse issues have been placed by school districts or local courts in alternative schools and community-based programs. But school districts in Pennsylvania, like those in many areas of the U.S. and other countries as well, have been under pressure lately to work with troubled students within their schools instead of sending them away.
Breaking Florida's school-to-jail pipeline: Alternative approaches to student discipline and punishment
Low graduation rates and a rising incarceration rate in Florida have led to calls for alternatives to the harsh punishments and criminalization of student misbehavior often practiced by school districts. One alternative being practiced by the Escambia County School District offers a non-traditional way in dealing with day-to-day rule violations and disruptive behavior in schools. The Escambia County Alternatives to Zero-tolerance Program engages students, victims, the wider school community and the neighborhood in repairing the harm caused by an offense. Students who break the rules and disrupt the educational process are given a chance to avoid suspension or expulsion by entering the program.
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.
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.