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Restorative justice

Sep 01, 2010

from Susan Lee Giles' article on My Roseville:

....When he joined the congregation for a Sunday service they saw a quiet, shy young man barely past boyhood. As they listened to him they finally understood what had happened and at last knew that the church had not been the target of a hate crime. A nagging fear vanished. Now it was clear that the fire was an accident and the boys had emptied every fire extinguisher trying to put it out and left not knowing that an ember would ignite and burn down the building.

The young man listened quietly as each person told him what the fire had meant to them personally. When every person had finished he told them that until that moment he had only thought of it as an empty building but now he saw faces of people, a community, whose lives had been impacted by the fire. He said he was truly sorry and ashamed and offered to come back and work for the church.

Conversation led to understanding and eventually to compassion. When the young man appeared in court members of the congregation made it a point to attend the hearing and speak about the impact on the congregation of meeting him eye to eye. They asked the court to extend mercy.

Recently the church received a letter from the judge who presided (Judge C. Nichols, Placer County Superior Court) and with her permission we quote from that letter: “It is a rare day when we get to see firsthand the results of victim-offender mediation. The church members are an example of how a group of people committed to social justice puts their beliefs into action. I believe that you all chose to take a very negative situation and, with an open mind and open heart, turned it into a positive, growing experience for everyone. What a tremendous moment that must have been for everyone. I know how the members’ statements impacted me personally in court. I was also witness to the affect it had on (the offender). Rarely do I get choked up, but I certainly did that day. This situation will forever be a shining example of restorative justice.” 

Read the whole article. Tip of the hat to Kris Miner!

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