Letter: "We Already Have Restorative Justice..." (Part 3) |CITY|
Submitted by dan. on 2007-05-23 01:54.
If we think in terms of restorativeness when assessing programmes and practices, we can respond to problems (and even successes) by considering ways in which the intervention might be made more restorative. What might this look like.
I the first part of this letter I noted a news article in which a city official concluded that restorative justice was not working for juveniles charged with vandalism. The city had "tried to show [the vandals] the error of their ways and punish them by requiring community service."
Using the four categories of questions I mentioned yesterday, let's see how this programme might be made more restorative.
1. How does this programme view crime and justice? The city's programme certainly takes seriously the harm done by the vandals to the community in general, and it attempts to help them understand it more immediately by requiring them to clean up after other vandals. But it does not reflect the individual harm to users of the park. Mr. Zuleger, the city official, noted that the real people harmed by the vandalism are little kids who want to use the park, but there is no indication that the vandals are confronted with those users and their parents so that they can discuss the human cost of the vandalism.
2. How is it oriented in terms of the community and the government? It appears that the programme is government-oriented. The vandals are ordered by government officials to perform the community service. There is no reported community involvement in the programme.
3. Are the processes inclusive? We have noted before that the actual victims are not included in determining what should happen with the vandals. We don't know what kind of offender involvement there is in determining the sentence, but it appears that this would be minimal. Creating a context in which regular users of the park were invited to meet with the juveniles -- with supporters of both victims and offenders invited as well -- would make the procedure much more inclusive and would generate a number of creative alternatives to community service.
4. What outcome is sought? According to Mr. Zuleger, the purpose of the programme is to clean up the part, save the city some money, and rehabilitate the offenders. There is no thought given to the individuals whose lives are affected by the vandalized parks, or to how their needs can be addressed. The offenders have not had the opportunity to develop empathy for those victims or to offer to make amends in appropriate ways.
There are undoubtedly other observations that could be made. But the above comments suggest that the restorativeness of the programme could be significantly increased by looking at more than the harm to the city, and by including individual community members who have been harmed by the actions of the vandals.
That suggests that a victim impact panel or, even better, a conference or circle would add a restorative dimension to the programme that would make it a more powerful intervention for the parties involved.
Let's stay in touch,
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