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Doing justice honourably

Jul 19, 2011

from Janet Sim Elder's post on Per Crucem ad Lucem:

A crucial question in this election year is how do we do justice honourably with both victims and offenders? How can recidivism continue downwards and how do public attitudes change to being solidly evidence-based? How do we face the challenge of changing the justice landscape? Can we provide the moral courage to help our society take steps towards a more just and merciful society?

Biblical pillars of doing justice and loving mercy [Micah 6:8b] are heavily strained in NZ. We rush to apportion blame rather than ask who has been hurt by crime. We mete out a retributive ‘justice’ which perpetuates further injustices. We legislate for three strikes and there is no more mercy. Have we the moral courage to do the harder task? To ask the restorative questions ‘Together, how can we put this right? Are forgiveness and reconciliation possible?’.

Voices which have shaped increasingly punitive justice policies recently with both major political parties have come from a minority. Populist politicians listen to these voices above others. Shameful stripping of citizenship for all prisoners is the latest in punitive legislation in the news as I write.

....Working in Restorative Justice, I gain the growing conviction that victims’ stories of crimes (from burglary to rape and brutal murder) are stories to be told to offenders. To stand in their victims’ shoes is the darkest place to be, but easily avoided. Courageously telling stories, in a safe place, face to face, is what can turn both the lives of victims and offenders around towards life no longer dominated by painful pasts. The best apology victims say they want is when they know the offender will never commit the crime against anyone, ever again.

Offenders, male and female, find it very difficult to rehabilitate. Creative, hopeful ways forward were outlined at the conference: projects bringing church and community group resources together to address reintegration issues facing people as they return to life in the complex world outside the prison.

Biblical pillars of doing justice and loving mercy [Micah 6:8b] are heavily strained in NZ. We rush to apportion blame rather than ask who has been hurt by crime. We mete out a retributive ‘justice’ which perpetuates further injustices. We legislate for three strikes and there is no more mercy. Have we the moral courage to do the harder task? To ask the restorative questions ‘Together, how can we put this right? Are forgiveness and reconciliation possible?’.

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