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Controversies around restorative justice

Jan 24, 2012

from David Belden's article in Tikkun:

....Restorative justice may be poised for a breakthrough into public awareness. It would be a boon for budget-cutting politicians and taxpayers if only the public could buy into it. For example, in the San Francisco Bay Area it costs around $50,000 to run a juvenile offender through the justice system, not counting the cost of incarceration if there is to be any, versus about $4,500 for a restorative process that typically leaves the victim much more satisfied, the young person reintegrated into the community without even being charged with a crime and much less likely to reoffend, and many community members relieved and grateful. Multiply the criminal justice cost many times for adults locked away for years.

But the rub is, punishment is nowhere seen in this process—unless, when you have harmed someone, you consider listening to them express their pain to be punishment, rather than a chance to develop empathy for them, see yourself in a different light, and learn and change in whatever way you now perceive is needed. Some consider that process tougher even than receiving punishment. Others think it’s being “soft on crime.”

Can a justice movement not based on punishment grow fast enough to win at the ballot box, even in an über-liberal city? In September the New York Times noted that “Restorative justice has long had proponents in some corners of the criminal justice system, but it is now gaining prominence in an unlikely forum: the San Francisco district attorney’s race.” We go to press too soon to know the result.

Or will restorative justice appeal more to small-government and traditional-values conservatives? Some of its elements do appeal to the Right, others to reformist liberals, others to radicals, including prison abolitionists. Of course, there are also elements that each of these players may dislike or hate. And no one will resist it more than the prison-industrial complex and the politicians in its pockets.

How it is presented by the media will be critical, but perhaps not decisive: it is how well it works in practice, in those places innovative enough to fund it, that will likely be decisive.

Read the whole article (there is a charge).

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Marjorie Bing Stanislaw
Marjorie Bing Stanislaw says:
Feb 07, 2012 02:44 PM

As a long-standing proponent of Restorative Justice and a long-term employee in the criminal justice field, I think media and elections will play a big part in how RJ becomes defined and utilized in the future. At a workshop I attend, Restorative Justice practitioner Sylvia Clute once said [to paraphrase), that you can’t win an election by going against a “get tough on crime opposition.” You can, however, as Ms. Clute pointed out, and as I believe, start using restorative solutions instead of retributive solutions when addressing “get tough on crime issues.” <br /> <br />The prison business is big business in the United States, but small jurisdictions and counties are starting to find themselves overwhelmed by the large amount of new laws (post 1980) on the books that warehouse people for petty offenses thus keeping them from their jobs and the ability to earn monies to pay fines and restitution. More and more people from poverty are being housed in both the adult and juvenile systems, with little thought or regard to how both warehousing, and everyone’s instant ability to check criminal records, has impacted the capability of offenders to get real meaningful employment that allows them to be reintegrated into their communities, become contributing members of society, and have the ability to pay fines, costs and restitution. <br /> <br />Some communities have begun turning to the work of Dr. Ruby Payne’s Bridges Out of Poverty and the National Circles Campaign to begin the dialogue of how to solve these problems. There is a definite dovetail between this poverty work and Restorative Justice. It bares taking a look and deciding where and how justice is meted out in your community, as well as if people are treated differently depending on their socio-economic background. <br />

Carolyn Shadle
Carolyn Shadle says:
Feb 03, 2013 07:05 PM

Thank you for bringing Restorative Justice to light. You may be interested in this adult curriculum which enables small study groups to learn about R.J. See

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