Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Restorative Justice: Small Group Discussions Continue

Our discussion group was not shy and did not lack for ideas!

Third in a series about Restorative Justice

If you have been following this series of posts regarding Restorative Justice, you know that there was an event at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution.  Part of the program included small group discussions led by speakers featured as part of the afternoon’s presentation.  There have been so many items on our small group’s list of problems that one post was insufficient.  Hence, we continue today:

Our group was given three questions to ponder and discuss:
·    Is there a problem?
·    What could Restorative Justice offer?
·    How could Restorative Justice be implemented?

We weren’t a shy bunch; there were lively, animated contributions from every participant and much agreement.  You might recall that our discussion group was made up of offenders and people of every walk of life from the community at large.

What might Restorative Justice offer?

We concluded that Restorative Justice-bringing an offender, his victim, and the entire community together to have every need met, including discipline and education, as well as accountability-would most assuredly help to heal many wounded lives.  No one believed this would be an easy task.  Feelings run deep and healing the wounds caused by crime is not easily or swiftly resolved.  Those who would implement this type of justice in lieu of Retributive Justice-which is what is now in place in Nebraska-would need to come together in a spirit of truth and love.  Not everyone will be eager to do so.

Another feature of this concept will be a stronger sense of peace and unity throughout the community, including the prison population.  Relieving the stress of guilt and shame will help those who are incarcerated concentrate on their own personal transformation with higher levels of empathy for their victims and the community at large.  Victims who feel heard and respected will understand that their needs will be met, too, and that will be nourishing to them and their families.  Everyone will have hope.

How, then, might Restorative Justice be implemented?

This type of justice is hard at work in some areas.  It seems to be a well guarded secret, while media reports of crime continue to dominate headlines and newscasts.  Media’s job, after all, is to sell their product so they sensationalize the bad things in society and overlook the good news.

Our group agreed that Restorative Justice needs to start behind the prison walls, with every offender owning up to his or her crime and taking responsibility for their own actions.  From the inside out, there would ideally be programs in place to support what Restorative Justice calls for.  Then, and only then, would the victim feel respected and heard.  Following that, the community could then feel as if they could lend their support and help the process in any way possible.

What, if anything IS being done to implement Restorative Justice?

Former gang members who have drastically transformed their lives from criminal activity to contributing to society in meaningful and positive ways are already moving about in groups of students to steer young people away from gangs and get them into programs that are more appropriate. 

People who are interested in getting Restorative Justice to replace the punitive methods employed by Retributive Justice are working diligently with Nebraska legislators, city councils, youth groups, support groups, churches and ministers and clubs within prison walls to educate people.

As a shining example of community support, Omaha has myriad clusters of community based activities, such as weekly meetings to inform one another about the activities and goals of helping support youth and their families throughout Omaha.  There are a number of networks who help to reintegrate offenders back into the community by assisting with employment, budgeting, housing, and transportation so as to reduce recidivism.  There are people helping other people on a one-to-one basis to aid felons in continuing transformation of their lives.  There is a mountain of assistance available just for the asking in order to gain computer skills, to complete job applications, to find housing and become an integral, valuable, contributing member of the community.  Help is also available for obtaining help providing food and clothing. 

These kinds of things could happen in ANY community!  By coming together with open minds, open hearts and open arms, we can put Restorative Justice firmly in place.  When that happens, we can be sure to minimize crime as well as recidivism. The quality of human life will be maximized to the fullest extent possible.

What’s it going to take, then?
·    Offender
·    Victim
·    Community
Meet the needs of the above list of people in truth and love and you’ve got yourself a mighty fine situation.  Continue in this line of thinking and behaving and the old retribution system will be outdated, outmoded, and out voted!  It will slink away into the annals of history, unneeded.

It rather smacks of peace on earth.  Don't you think so, too? 

The next post will summarize this concept and the event that showcased it.  We so appreciate your comments, questions, and yes, even your criticism.  

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1 comment:

  1. Young one, you are soooo deep sometimes. How're your eyes and the Normanator?


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