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Restorative Justice and Forgiveness

What is forgiveness? Is it a goal of restorative justice, and if not, does it play any role at all in a restorative response to crime. These articles and resources address the difficult, controversial but important topic of forgiveness by victims of crime.

Does restorative justice work? An evaluation of the restorative justice programmes of Phoenix Zululand
from the chapter by Geoff Harris: This chapter provides a case study of a bottom-up restorative justice intervention aimed at encouraging prisoners to take responsibility for their behaviour and at transforming relationships between prisoners and their families. From focus groups and interviews with ex-prisoners and their families, the study found that forgiveness and reconciliation was frequently achieved, a finding which has important implications for the extremely high levels of recidivism in South Africa.
Does restorative justice work? An evaluation of the restorative justice programmes of Phoenix Zululand
This chapter provides a case study of a bottom-up restorative justice intervention aimed at encouraging prisoners to take responsibility for their behaviour and at transforming relationships between prisoners and their families. From focus groups and interviews with ex-prisoners and their families, the study found that forgiveness and reconciliation was frequently achieved, a finding which has important implications for the extremely high levels of recidivism in South Africa. (Author's Abstract)
Video Review: Being with the energy of forgiveness: Lessons from former enemies in restorative dialogue
reviewed by Dan Van Ness: 27 Minutes; Producer: Mark Umbreit; 2013 In these days, mentioning of the word ‘forgiveness’ in a support group of severe-crime victims can set off an electrical charge that fills the air. But there are some victims, with the help of restorative justice facilitators, who choose to meet with their offenders in order to find greater peace within themselves. What is it that drives such victims forward? Drawing from over three decades of experience with facilitating dialogue for victims and offenders, Dr. Mark Umbreit has produced this very helpful documentary that explores the meaning of, the possibilities for, and the processes that allow forgiveness to happen even if the words are never spoken. This is especially true for victims of serious offenses. In many ways, he says, forgiveness often operates like a positive source of energy that can overcome the negative energies stemming from a tragic crime.
Cathyji on Review: The Final Gift: A documentary film
I have not yet watched the documentary nor read the book. But reading what happened to your brother and your personal process hit home for [...]
Three tales of forgiveness
from Bess Manson's article on stuff.co.nz: Forgiveness is a hard road to travel for the victim of a crime, but coming face to face with the offender in a restorative justice process can be beneficial for both, according to Kim Workman, director of Rethinking Crime and Punishment. ''The court process often passes victims by because they are still so traumatised by the offence. They don't understand what has gone on and they feel blocked by anger and fear, often for years. At some point, a victim may feel they want to tell the offender what they think of them, how much damage they have done. They may also want to try to understand what motivated the offender. They may want to try to make sense of it all.''
Heart of Forgiveness
from the entry by Ron Nikkel on pfi.org: ….The fact remains that for many people forgiveness is as controversial a concept as it is an illogical one. Yet for most of us, even while forgiveness is personally desirable when we desire mercy for our own misdeeds, it is totally abhorrent to us when we are faced with a remorseless person who has deliberately aggrieved or injured us. We even wonder if there is any justification in forgiving someone who doesn’t deserve to be forgiven, let alone when that person persists in an attitude of indifference and impenitence. Somewhat unconsciously we draw a dividing line between ourselves as being among the good and the deserving, and others who are less good and less deserving, not to mention those who are evil and completely reprehensible. And as a result most of us don’t even entertain the possibility that criminal offenders should be forgiven until they have fully paid their “debt to society.”
As leaders, how do we forgive?
from the entry by Craig Gilliam on Just Peace: ….Forgiveness at its deepest level is from God and it is a gift. As I understand forgiveness, it is, in part, a process or journey by which we open ourselves to the reality of another, thus, undergo a profound change toward them and ourselves. Forgiveness is a movement on the journey toward reconciliation. In some instances, forgiveness simply happens by the grace of God through our encounter with another’s vulnerability and humanity. Sometimes, forgiveness simply breaks in on us apart from our choosing.
Restorative justice is not forgiveness
from the entry by Ted Wachtel on the HuggPost Blog: Restorative justice has been receiving a lot of attention lately, due to Paul Tullis's January 4 New York Times Magazine article, "Can Forgiveness Play a Role in Criminal Justice?" This story about a restorative justice conference following the murder of a young woman by her boyfriend was also covered on the January 5 episode of the Today Show, "Parents who forgave their daughter's killer: It 'frees us.'"
Merciful Jews forgive Nazi grave vandal
from the article by Tony Wall for stuff.co.nz: The Jewish community has taken pity on one of the youths who desecrated graves at a cemetery in Auckland with Nazi symbols - causing worldwide outrage - and is even offering to pay his university tuition fees so he can turn his life around. Robert Moulden, 19, pleaded guilty to a charge of intentional damage in the Auckland District Court last year and will be sentenced next month. His co-accused, Christian Landmark, 20, has pleaded not guilty and appears in court again on Tuesday. More than a dozen headstones in the Jewish quarter of the Symonds St Cemetery were vandalised with images of swastikas and expletive-ridden anti-Israeli messages on October 19. It is proving incredibly difficult to remove paint from the porous headstones, which date back to the 19th century, and the repair job could cost as much as $50,000.
Can forgiveness play a role in criminal justice?
from the article by Paul Tullis in the New York Times ….Baliga laid out the ground rules: Campbell would read the charges and summarize the police and sheriff’s reports; next the Grosmaires would speak; then Conor; then the McBrides; and finally Foley, representing the community. No one was to interrupt. Baliga showed a picture of Ann, sticking out her tongue as she looks at the camera. If her parents heard anything Ann wouldn’t like, they would hold up the picture to silence the offending party. Everyone seemed to feel the weight of what was happening. “You could feel her there,” Conor told me.
Evaluation of The Forgiveness Project within prisons
from the article by Joanna R. Adler and Mansoor Mir: The Forgiveness Project (TFP) is a UK based charity that uses real stories to explore how ideas around forgiveness, reconciliation and conflict resolution can have a positive impact on people’s lives. One aspect of the charity’s work is a programme run within prisons, targeted at the early stages of a sentence.
Presentations of The Final Gift
Thank you for your review of Therese Bartholomew's film, The Final Gift. I have seen this film shown at two different churches, with Therese there [...]
Review: The Final Gift: A documentary film
Reviewed by Lynette Parker The Final Gift-- A Documentary Film offers an intimate look into one woman’s journey of healing following the violent death of her brother. Therese Bartholemew’s brother, Steve, died after being shot in an altercation at a club. This film results from her attempt to understand what happened and its impact on their family. It chronicles their emotions and responses from receiving the first phone call to the sentencing to Therese’s meeting with the offender.
How this program helps me to heal.
  I have been part of a victims panel for quite some time now in this program. I can't tell you how impressed I am with [...]
Prison experiences of self forgiveness
from the paper presented by Fergus Hogan and Jonathan Culleton at Experiencing Prison: Crime challenges communities; criminal activity is an assault on civic society – individuals who break the law are deemed to have stepped outside of society. Yet prison as a response to crime can also be read as an assault on community; often those imprisoned were never fully integrated into society.
A spectrum of forgiveness
During the Sycamore Tree Project, we encourage a discussion on forgiveness, but we emphasise honesty, above all. In that atmosphere we have all learned so [...]
What can we offer to the victim
I was reading when I tought.. what happens if the victim doesn't want to participate and have a dialogue whit the offender... what can we [...]
restorative justice & forgiveness
Thank you, Tina, for your comment. I agree with you. Crime victims cannot be "badgered" to forgive. I think that is why restorative justice is [...]
Forgiveness and RJ
Forgiveness, as I see it, is renouncing to harm the offender but not necessarily is renouncing to receive reparation. Moreover, not renouncing to reparation is [...]
Restorative Justice does not mean for giveness
I agree. It took me five years. I've known several who forgave almost immediatly. and others whose family still has anger after a second generation. [...]

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