Restorative justice and the challenge of prison reform
Crucially, prisoners have to learn to accept responsibility for the harm their criminal activities have caused to individual victims, family and neighbourhood. This largely transformative component is implemented at the beginning of any given prison sentence and is maintained throughout the term of custody.
....Wherever practical and possible, prisoners are made responsible for any financial compensation owed to victims. To this end, a restoration fund may be established and prisoners able to earn money in order to pay victim compensation. This encourages a degree of responsibility in prisoners whilst providing reparation for victims.
Restorative justice for people who are innocent & wrongfully imprisoned
from Lorenn Walker's blog:
Recently, I saw how successfully RJ was used by someone who has steadfastly maintained innocence, and who does not take responsibility for the crimes she is in prison for.
The woman is serving several life sentences for crimes that she has denied since being convicted after a trial about 20 years ago. She was 18 when she went into prison and she has not seen two of her now adult children since then. Most of her children want a relationship with her and she wants one with them. The woman learned about restorative justice in a course we provide* in the prison, and she used an RJ process to focus how she could restore her relationship with her children, and address the harm caused them and herself, by her teenage drug use and her imprisonment.
So how do you know that an offender means it when they say sorry?
from Dave Walker's blog entry:
I attended a session in a well known, inner city prison full of local, inner city, young men with all the airs and graces of inner city life, drugs, violence and gang culture. These things don’t cease upon sentencing – if anything they can sometimes be more intense on a prison wing than on the street. Status can be everything on the wing and a new pair of trainers will do wonders for you on the respect scale.
To see a young man in an environment like this full of masculine front stand up to read a letter he has written to the parents of another young man he had beaten up in a gang related incident. To see this man physically shaking and weeping in front of the room I have described. To see some of the other men welling up at what they are hearing. To hear the regret that the realisation of their actions has induced: a realisation not at all prompted by the court process. To witness all this is the only way to have that big question answered. This is what I witnessed and I have absolutely no doubt as to their sincerity.
Awesome things happen when people come together
Recently, I met with representatives from Prison Fellowship Italy (PF Italy) visiting the Washington, DC area. In early 2010, a colleague and I had visited Italy to train members of the new organisation in the Sycamore Tree Project® so I was really looking forward to hearing about their experiences and the lessons learned. I wasn’t prepared for the awe inspiring stories that they told.
The Sycamore Tree Project® is an in-prison restorative justice programme bringing together unrelated victims and prisoners for a series of six to eight sessions. Through the sessions, participants explore the impact of crime, taking responsibility, confession, repentance, making amends, forgiveness and reconciliation. PF Italy worked quickly to implement this programme in Italian prisons but faced a few obstacles. In the end, the prison administration allowed them to start but with the proviso that the first group consist of prisoners who were mafia members convicted of committing murder and survivors of victims of such mafia activity. I remember receiving that news and thinking, “That’s not where I would want to start.”
Interview with Debbie, a rape victim of Robert Power
from the interview by Ines Aubert:
Ines Aubert was a pen pal of Robert Powers who had been sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl. She discovered over time that Robert had changed profoundly and that he wanted, among other things, to extend an apology to any of his victims who wished to receive that.
This took on some urgency at the end of 2010 as Robert neared the end of his life (he died of cancer on December 3). Ines contacted restorative justice consultant and RJOnline Correspondent Lisa Rea for assistance, but they were unable to find a way to reach out to Robert's victims. Lisa wrote about this in an earlier blog entry on RJOB.
Commenting on an article about Robert's death in a Florida newspaper, Ines wrote that he had wanted to apologize before his death but had been unable. Another reader -- one of Robert's victims -- replied to Ines that she had forgiven Robert. The two were able to connect, and Ines recently interviewed Debbie about her experience as a victim and the reasons for her forgiveness. The following is a short excerpt of an answer Debbie gave to Ines' question about how she felt when she learned that Robert had a pen pal.
The promise of restorative justice: New approaches for criminal justice and beyond
Reviewed by Martin Wright
It is becoming increasingly clear that the principles of restorative justice can be used, as the editors say, outside the formal criminal justice system, and this book bears witness to that. Half is about criminal justice, and half about other applications in schools and elsewhere. The contributors reflect the book’s origins among a group at Fresno Pacific University in California, but other chapters come from Bulgaria, Canada, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.
1000th Sycamore Tree - Restorative Justice programme changes prisoner’s lives
Prison Fellowship’s restorative justice programme Sycamore Tree achieves a milestone today (14th December) when the 1000th programme is completed.
Over 30 Prisons and Young Offenders Institutions in England and Wales offer the programme and around 2,000 learners participate every year. The 1000th Sycamore Tree is being offered at HMP Wayland, Norfolk.
Sycamore Tree raises the awareness of the impact of crime on victims and teaches the principles and application of restorative justice.
Green Paper: Breaking the cycle - Effective punishment, rehabilitation and sentencing of offenders
from the UK Government's new Green Paper:
78. We are committed to increasing the range and availability of restorative justice approaches to support reparation. Restorative justice is the name given to processes which provide victims with the opportunity to play a personal role in determining how an offender makes amends. This can often include direct reparation. A substantial minority of victims would consider meeting their offender by way of a restorative justice process and those victims who do report high levels of satisfaction. The evidence suggests that the approach may also have a positive impact on the offender’s likelihood of reoffending in the future. Getting an offender to confront the consequences of their crimes directly is often an effective punishment for less serious offences.
Against my will
by Radha Stern
Radha Stern's son Christopher was murdered in 1996. This is her story of how meeting with prisoners, and eventually with the man who killed her son, has helped her find relief and comfort.
Getting into a prison is intimidating. Accompanied by my prison escort, I went to the first gate, presented my ID to a guard who carried a gun. I signed in, was approved and went to the next gate to meet another armed guard and pass through a metal detector. After that gate, I went to another entrance with a guard and gun, signed in, was checked in and approved by the computer, was scanned with a hand-held metal detector, and stamped under the left wrist with the daily stamp. Then I went into a Sally port a large cell – where a huge door slams shut with a resounding “clank.” I was held there until the opposite door opened with another loud “clank,” and I entered another Sally port, which then unlocked and allowed me access into a large open quad.
Criminals, community work together on successful mural project
From the article by Casey McNerthney:
Talking Friday about criminals he was asked to work with on a community mural, Lake City resident Chuck Dickey recalled his first reaction.
"I didn't want them here."
Nearly two years ago, the city proposed sending the offenders to the neighborhood as part of the Community Court program. Officials say 50 repeat, non-violent offenders were part of the recent effort -- mostly people convicted of prostitution, theft and criminal trespass. The program gives misdemeanor offenders the chance to get social services and work on projects designed to pay back the community.
Their work changed the minds of people like Dickey.