The Effectiveness of Restorative Justice Practices

In the June, 2005 issue of The Prison Journal there is a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of restorative justice practices. Guess what? They work.

Using outcomes such as victim - offender satisfaction, restitution compliance, and recidivism, restorative justice approaches are more effective, that is, they get better outcomes than traditional punitive programs. The caution in this meta-analysis is that most restorative justice programs are voluntary and therefore the participants are self selected.

Holding offenders accountable to victims and working out agreeable ways of repairing the harm seems to me to be a far superior and satisfying approach than watching the State punish offenders and marginalizing the victim in the process.

Link: The Effectiveness of Restorative Justice Practices: A Meta-Analysis -- Latimer et al. 85 (2): 127 -- The Prison Journal.

Culture of life has deeper meaning than politicians want you to know about.

Leo Hartshorn has a wonderful article entitled, "A Culture Of Life", in the April 19, 2005 issue of PeaceSigns, a monthly ezine of the Mennonite Church.

Mr. Hartshorn points out the hypocrisy of politicians who jump on certain issues like the Terry Schiavo case and abortion, and yet ignore the death penalty, militarism, poverty, the environment, health care, and human rights.

"The slow death of Terri Schiavo evoked a call from the Bush administration and many Christians to promote "a culture of life." It is a phrase borrowed from Pope John Paul II, who sought throughout his life to promote a consistent ethic of life by opposing not only abortion, but also the war in Iraq and the death penalty.

The Pope made people angry on both sides of the political and religious fence. But it is this kind of consistency that has eluded our culture and the church, whether or not one agrees with everything Pope John Paul II supported.

Spouting the buzz phrase "a culture of life" to promote a narrow range of ethical issues or political and ideological agenda turns it into empty rhetoric. To raise the phrase in our culture is both a rhetorical act of hypocrisy and hope. It is an act of hypocrisy in that most of us are anything but consistent in promoting a culture of life for all of creation. It is an act of hope in that we long for a culture that nurtures life and liberty rather than death and destruction."

Click on the link below to read Mr. Hartshorn's wonderful article.

Link: PeaceSigns - Peace and Justice Support Network E-Zine.

Restorative justice - pathway to peace.

Yesterday I went to a conference on Restorative Justice sponsored by the Finger Lakes Restorative Justice Center and Roberts Wesleyan College at Roberts in North Chili, NY. The key note speaker was Mark Umbreit a leader in restorative justice nationally and internationally. It was an inspiring conference which gave me the opportunity to meet people from around Western New York who are interested in restorative justice practices and programs.

Restorative Justice seeks to help individuals who have been harmed, individuals causing the harm, and community members affected by harmful incidents. Restorative justice also seeks to help organizations, institutions, and communities find peaceful and healthy ways to handle and forestall dispute and conflict.

Instead of justice being a matter between "The State" and the perpetrator, restorative justice seeks to put the victim at the center of the process not in a peripheral or marginalized role. The victim is a generic term which refers not only to an individual, but to that person's family, neighborhood, community, and even broader society.

Having put the victim in the center of the process, the key question is what needs to be done to repair the harm that the offender caused, and how can that repair plan best be developed and implemented?

Restorative justice seeks not just to protect the community from further harm although this continues to be an important goal, but to transform the spirits of the victim, the offender, witnesses and other stakeholders so that the emotional satisfaction of justice can occur.

Restorative justice practices and activities are spreading and growing nationally and around the world because victims are demanding it. The traditional entrenched criminal justice system, at times feeling threatened, may attempt to block the growth of restorative justice, but it is a better way of doing criminal justice business and it brings a more satisfying sense of peace.

Link: Finger Lakes Restorative Justice Center.