Restorative Justice is a concept that our Mission & Justice Ministry has been following. We are looking for ways to get involved locally.
Briefly, the concept is seeing “crime” as a “HARM” that affects and needs to be addressed by the offender, the victim and the community.
It proposes a modified framework for the criminal justice system which recognizes that crime is primarily an offense against human relationship and secondarily a violation of law. Instead of punishment and retribution, Restorative Justice asks the criminal justice system to focus on the injuries and needs of crime victims, the responsibilities and rehabilitation of offenders, and restoring right relationships within and harm to communities.
Exploring Restorative Justice Further
Because the roots of justice are in a community’s resolution of its own problems. Because the modern criminal justice system disenfranchises victims and communities. Because rehabilitation works best when an offender is given the motivation to attach to his/her community and its support systems. Because 2 million people are in prison in the U.S. today and 1 million of them are black men between the ages of 18-25. Because the prison system is brutal and doesn’t even pretend to be rehabilitative anymore. Because there is a movement developing to examine the justice system and its values, mission and goals. Because recidivism rates have been drastically reduced for offenders who participate in restorative justice programs. Because victims and communities regain control over the resolution of issues when the harms caused by an offense can be explored in depth amongst the participants rather than left to an overburdened criminal justice system with few or no ties to the community or people involved.
Restorative justice is a process whereby all the parties with a stake in a particular incident come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath and its implications for the future. Restorative Justice programs typically involve training volunteers to explore justice options and develop an alternative justice system for their communities based on shared values and goals. Restorative Justice programs frequently bring willing victims and offenders together with their respective support systems and families, and representative members of the affected community. Together they brainstorm ideas for supporting, listening to and compensating victims; remedying, repairing or compensating the community; holding offenders’ responsible and supervising the offenders’ rehabilitation, making of amends and re-assimiliation into the community.
If you wish more information on Restorative Justice (which some people also refer to as Transformative Justice), here are some sites you may wish to take a look at.
- Restorative Justice Task Team of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ
- Justice: Retribution or Restoration?
- Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking
- Restorative Justice – Fundamental Principles
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