by Lynette Parker:
As I was browsing through Twitter feeds I saw a comment about an offensive apology letter. Of course I clicked the link to read the letter. I had to agree with Victim Support UK; the letter was offensive and disrespectful. I also agreed with the Twitter comment from Why Me?, “The problem with That Letter is there was no preparation first.”
Restorative practices in Hungary: An ex-prisoner is reintegrated into the community
from the article by Vidia Negrea:
As the representative of Community Service Foundation of Hungary, the Hungarian affiliate of the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP), I participated in a group session of the Hungarian Crime Prevention and Prison Mission Foundation in summer 2009 (Sycamore Tree Project — or Zacchaeus Program in Hungary). There I met the governor of Balassagyarmat prison, where inmates were working in groups on issues related to their crimes and exploring ways to repair relationships they had damaged.
Some inmates began accepting responsibility for what they had done and were motivated to make things right and earn forgiveness of victims and their families. Prisoners made symbolic reparation in the form of community service within the prison, but there was still a lot to do to create opportunities for offenders to make contact with victims and shed the stigma of their offense by means of direct reparation. Also, prison management believed it important to support processes, acceptable to victimized families and communities, to help prisoners regain control of their lives and prevent reoffending.
from the video by Marilyn Armour:
Jason Shippy (student): I think the biggest surprise that I learned is that victims of crimes actually want to talk about the offense and actually kind of get a little upset that even people who are fairly close to them just pretend like the crime never happened or that the person who was murdered never existed.
The offer of restorative justice to victims of violent crime: Should it be protective or proactive?
The victims in our sample suggest generalizing the offer of restorative justice to all victims. Themselves victims of very serious crimes, they experienced the beneficial impact of participation in a restorative intervention. However, while they believe that all victims should be informed about restorative opportunities, they emphasize that victims have to feel ready to participate in such programs.
The limits of empathy
....Empathy orients you toward moral action, but it doesn’t seem to help much when that action comes at a personal cost. You may feel a pang for the homeless guy on the other side of the street, but the odds are that you are not going to cross the street to give him a dollar.
There have been piles of studies investigating the link between empathy and moral action. Different scholars come to different conclusions, but, in a recent paper, Jesse Prinz, a philosopher at City University of New York, summarized the research this way: “These studies suggest that empathy is not a major player when it comes to moral motivation. Its contribution is negligible in children, modest in adults, and nonexistent when costs are significant.” Other scholars have called empathy a “fragile flower,” easily crushed by self-concern.
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)
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.
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.
A scary, but exciting prospect
Recently, I was in the Bahamas to conduct a training seminar on the Sycamore Tree Project® for Prison Fellowship Bahamas. A diverse group of people including prison officers, volunteers, and police officers gathered to learn about this in-prison restorative justice programme. Through the day and half of training two emotions stood out: fear and excitement.
For many, especially the prison officers, the idea of bringing victims into prison to meet face-to-face with prisoners (but not their own offenders) was novel and a bit overwhelming. Although the programme has a positive track record in close to twenty countries, the training participants still had serious concerns about how this would work. For one thing, how do you handle victim anger? Why would victims want to go into prison? Isn’t this just setting up an explosive situation?
Sycamore Tree: Week 3
A week with huge expectations: we have three visitors coming with us. Ann (not her real name) a young lady, victim of a robbery, whose car was violently attacked while she was in it and whose bags were stolen and Ray and Vi, whose son Christopher was murdered by a gang of violent youths high on alcohol and drugs. Ann and Ray and Vi are effectively surrogate victims for the men - a taster, in a group, of the experience of a victim – offender conference or mediation.