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Video Review: Repairing the Harm: Restorative Justice

Repairing the Harm is a 30-minute documentary discussing restorative justice concepts and uses in various settings.

Repairing the Harm2007. Produced by NEWIST/CESA 7, Educational Television Productions of N.E. Wisconsin and Wisconsin Public Television.

Repairing the Harm: Restorative Justice introduces restorative justice through commentary by offenders, victims, those working with in the legal system, and restorative justice advocates. It shows restorative processes being used in prisons, the community, and schools in the state of Wisconsin.

The video opens with a large circle of people inside a prison. The circle includes offenders, criminal justice system representatives and victims of crime. Although involving indirect victims and offenders, programme participants report that it has a powerful impact.

One scene shows an offender confessing that he entered the programme to improve his record to get a better hearing in an appeal instead of a real desire to learn more about victim needs. However, when he began to talk about his grandmother, he says, he begun thinking about how his decisions had affected others. Other offenders talk about how hearing from the victims led them to realize the harm and fear that they had caused others.

The video then moves to victim offender conferencing. As a narrator explains the purpose of these meetings, a victim and offender are shown sitting down at a table for such a conference.  During the exchanges the victim – whose sister had been murdered in a burglary – questions the offender about the events surrounding the crime. She challenges the offender to face the reality of what happened. The video provides an honest glimpse into her emotions during the meeting; in the end she says that the she is not ready to forgive the offender.

From the prison environment, the video moves on the uses of restorative justice in the community, focusing on juvenile crime. The video shows a community conferencing training in Milwaukee led by an assistant district attorney. Role plays are used to teach community members the concepts of conferencing.

This portion of the documentary also highlights the creation of a teen court in Madison. As the narrator describes the teen court concept, the video shows a training session for teen court volunteers being conducted using the circle process. A judge discusses the rationale for using the teen court in sentencing certain young offenders.

From criminal justice, the video proceeds to the use of restorative principles in schools. The Baron School District has adopted a system-wide approach to restorative justice. Each class period was reduced by a few minutes to make time for team building and problem solving work. This made a difference: teachers describe being able to teach more of the curriculum because they encounter fewer discipline issues.

In the Oshkosh School district, restorative processes are used to address discipline issues before they escalate into worse offenses. The video shows parts of a conference held with students and parents to address an issue. Afterwards, a parent comments that the process allowed everyone to express what they were feeling and then to calm down to find resolution.

Repairing the Harm: Restorative Justice offers a good introduction to restorative justice principles and use in various settings. The accompanying teacher resource guide provides definitions of terms, explanations of concepts and process and sample process procedures for schools. The video is available for purchase from NEWIST/CESA 7 for $149.

Lynette Parker
October 2007

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