Restorative justice is not just saying 'Sorry'
Martin Wright's letter to the editor that didn't get published:
Mark Johnson’s critique gives a chance to correct some common misconceptions about restorative justice (‘Apologising to victims will not reduce reoffending rates’, SocietyGuardian, 18 August). It is not about dragging offenders to see their victims, telling them to say “sorry”, nor making them do menial tasks wearing conspicuous clothing. It does not humiliate offenders (provided it is done properly, of course); they are enabled to show that they can do something useful and be valued for it.
It lets victims explain, and offenders understand, the damaging effects of their actions (and in some cases, such as fights, both have been at fault in some ways). Both are asked questions like ‘What happened?’ ‘Who was affected?’ ‘What do you think and feel about it?’ and ‘What needs to be done to make things better?’ Victims often ask for an apology and/or reparation, but what most of them want is answers to questions and action to make a repeat less likely. This could mean that the offender makes reparation by co-operating with whatever support he or she needs, programmes such as anger management, drug treatment or vocational skills.
Criminals could cut sentences by saying ‘sorry’
Tens of thousands of offenders may be able to reduce their sentences by making personal apologies to their victims, under plans for a “rehabilitation revolution” in the criminal justice system.
Crispin Blunt, the prisons minister, is considering the move as part of a drive to offer victims the chance to come face-to-face with the person who committed the crime against them. A report released today by two charities, Victim Support and the Restorative Justice Consortium, suggests the policy could save £185m in two years by cutting reoffending.
Huikahi Restorative Circles: A public health approach for reentry planning
....The Huikahi Restorative Circle is a group process for reentry planning that involves the incarcerated individual, his or her family and friends, and at least one prison representative. The process was developed in 2005 in collaboration with two community-based organizations—the Hawai’i Friends of Civic &Law Related Education and the Community Alliance on Prisons—and the Waiawa Correctional Facility located on the island of O’ahu.
Lessons in transformation: "You gotta smile at the little f…ers"
By KIm Workman
Last night, Maori Television screened the first of a two part programme dealing with the issue of family violence and child abuse. ‘Tamariki Ora - A New Beginning’ was a defining moment for Maori. It showed Maori men acknowledging that the abuse they received as children, turned them into abusers of their own children. But it also showed the extent to which whanau (families) are acknowledging the issues, forging their own solutions, and actively working within their whanau and the community to encourage positive, loving relationships.
I recall in my own marae (*meeting house) , less than 20 years ago, female elders defending a male elder who had sexually abused a visiting school child, as being a practise that was culturally acceptable in traditional times. We all knew that was nonsense, but no one had the guts to face the issue head on. Those days are now well and truly gone.
I wept tears at the programme – but they were tears of joy. From this day on, no one will ever be able to say that Maori are failing to take responsibility for their own behaviour.
Can you work for the victim and the offender?
by Lisa Rea
I had two things happen to me recently that gave me pause. It is the story of two people. One is the story of a crime victim. The other is a story of an ex-offender.
The crime victim lost her husband to murder years ago in California. I've known this woman largely via email for many years as we both have worked for justice reform. This victim worked for an organization in California that often took positions regarding prison and sentencing policies than have not been positions I could support as an advocate of restorative justice. But regardless, she and I have been "friends". In time, I believe she saw me as a supporter of crime victims, something that I have worked hard to be. She was a good person and a nice human being.
Forgiving my daughter's killer
One of the two 15-year-old boys who killed my 26-year-old daughter Cathy was released from prison last month after serving 23 years of a 54-year sentence. Gary Brown was released from prison one week before the Supreme Court decided in Graham v. Florida to end the practice of sentencing juveniles to life without parole for crimes other than murder.
Healing in a hard place
How do people heal from violent crime? How do they mend after a rape or assault, or after losing a loved one to murder? How do they get over the grief, anger and gnawing sense that no matter what happens, justice will never be served?
For Patricia Dahlgren, whose mother, June Duncan, was abducted and strangled in December 1995, the answer came from an unusual source: the man who killed her mother.
What's next for Minnesota's ex-cons?
What does it really take to keep a person from going back to prison? Let's see. Resources that work, perhaps faith and prayers, a change in peers or environment, and, most important of all, the willingness and commitment of the offender to do what it takes to make that change.
....Given that up to 95 percent of offenders eventually return to society, we need to do better. According to one major study, two-thirds of offenders are arrested again within three years of their release. In Minnesota, up to 36 percent of offenders are sent back to prison for a felony within three years of release, pretty much mirroring the national situation.
....Minnesota's Comprehensive Offender Reentry Plan (MCORP) was devised five years ago and funded three years ago to help cut the recidivism rate.
Norway builds the world's most humane prison
But how restorative is it?
Ten years and 1.5 billion Norwegian kroner ($252 million) in the making, Halden is spread over 75 acres (30 hectares) of gently sloping forest in southeastern Norway. The facility boasts amenities like a sound studio, jogging trails and a freestanding two-bedroom house where inmates can host their families during overnight visits. Unlike many American prisons, the air isn't tinged with the smell of sweat and urine. Instead, the scent of orange sorbet emanates from the "kitchen laboratory" where inmates take cooking courses. "In the Norwegian prison system, there's a focus on human rights and respect," says Are Hoidal, the prison's governor. "We don't see any of this as unusual."
Va. OKs bill to let violent crime victims meet with death row inmates
Lorraine Whoberry tried for years to meet face-to-face with her daughter's killer before he was executed last month. She was repeatedly denied.
So the day after she witnessed his execution, Whoberry sat down with Gov. Bob McDonnell and asked for his help. A bill was making its way through the Virginia General Assembly that would allow victims of violent crime to meet with the perpetrators, but it excluded those on death row and juveniles.
McDonnell amended the bill to allow victims to meet with inmates on death row. On Wednesday, the General Assembly unanimously approved the change.
Although more than half of the states have victim-offender mediation programs, advocates said Virginia would be one of the first to cement it in state law. Virginia also becomes one of only a handful that allow meetings with death row inmates.
“Even though it's not going to affect us, at least we've got something done,” Whoberry said when told about the change.