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Investing in restorative justice

Jun 12, 2009

From Marian Head's opinion column at denverpost.com: Our criminal justice system is broken, and the reasons are complex. One of the many contributing factors is that our penal system's focus on punishment is not working. You would think that after their first time behind bars prisoners would never do anything to wind up back there; yet the opposite is true. In December 2007, the Department of Justice estimated that two-thirds of all released prisoners will commit new offenses within three years of their release. In addition to the great human toll of incarceration, $68 billion of our taxpayer dollars are paying for this travesty.

In order to serve their community's needs, most of Colorado's local restorative justice programs have to raise money beyond whatever government support they may receive.

Can you imagine if the corrections department had to do bake sales and fashion shows to afford to run their prisons? It is a crime that more of our tax dollars aren't reallocated from the costly prison system to more cost-effective, life-affirming restorative justice programs.

Each Colorado prisoner costs taxpayers about $30,000 per year. For the cost of only ten prisoners, a community-based restorative justice process could help hundreds of people who commit crimes and are ready to be held accountable for their actions.

In restorative justice, because victims are heard and offenders repair the harm of their crime, they become higher functioning citizens able to work and make a contribution to their community, including paying their share of taxes.

Why aren't our legislators suggesting reallocation of criminal justice resources to restorative justice along with their other budget cutting ideas?

Read the whole article.

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