Rehabilitation is everyone’s responsibility
Recently, I watched a Vimeo video about the reform of the Solomon Islands Correctional Services. It starts with an individual describing his crime and how the local traditional justice would’ve responded with banishment. The current system wasn’t very different; the banishment happened with a prison sentence. From that point, different officials and community volunteers describe a process of shifting the system culture from punitive to rehabilitative. It’s a shift that focuses on needs and relationships.
I enjoy restorative conferencing. I've been awed by the way people share their hearts and address the harms they've caused or experienced. While not everyone will go into a conference, I like offering an opportunity. I've learned that I can serve just by listening to stories when people aren't interested in the conference process. They are interested in someone who will listen to them.
Grace, forgiveness, justice
Recently, we posted an article reviewing the book The collapse of American Criminal Justice. I found a comment to the article posted on the Restorative Justice Online Facebook page to be very interesting:
“I find it interesting that Protestant America, who supposedly believes in free grace and forgiveness, are the first to espouse punishment for its own sake.”
Can I cry?
I have a confession to make. I cry at the drop of a hat. Movies, television shows, commercials, stories – it doesn't matter. I can be in tears in 0.2 seconds.
So, it may be a surprise to folks that know me to learn that I don’t cry when I’m facilitating. I’m tempted at times, but I haven’t actually shed tears during a conference. I've been thinking about this recently after a training event in Panama where several Prison Fellowship leaders were talking about facilitating the Sycamore Tree Project®. The training had been intense with personal stories and a lot of tears. In the middle of all the sharing, one of the leaders asked if it was okay for the facilitator to cry.
I’m not into remorse
Lots of people will ask me about offenders feeling remorse when they go through a restorative conference. Trainee facilitators will ask whether or not I thought a client showed remorse during a pre-conference. People curious about the process will ask if those who have committed crime actually show remorse. The most difficult conversations occur when I talk to a victim of crime about participating. They may ask if the offender has shown remorse in my meetings with him/her.
Justice? What about understanding?
Scrolling through RSS feeds I saw a link for, “After driving on sidewalk to pass school bus, woman must wear ‘idiot’ sign.” I admit clicking the link to see what it was about. The first line quotes someone as declaring, “Justice has been served!” before going into how a woman had driven on a sidewalk to get around a parked school bus with children on it. The penalty was to stand near the scene of the incident wearing a sign that says, “Only an idiot would drive on the sidewalk to avoid the school bus.” She will also pay a $250 fine.
Review: The Final Gift: A documentary film
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.
A need to talk
“He never talked to us and we were friends.”
I recently heard this statement several times from a couple whose teenage son was killed in a vehicular accident. The “he” they referred to was the driver of the vehicle who had been their neighbour at the time. Throughout the hour long preconference, they continually repeated their hurt and disappointment that the offender had not offered condolences or talked to them since the accident. That lack of communication just seemed to weigh on this couple as they struggled with their grief.
As a facilitator, I occasionally face situations that give me pause. Do I really want to facilitate this case? Am I competent to facilitate such a case? There are times I walk into the situation with real concerns and doubts, but simply have to trust the process.
It could be different…
Recently, I’ve been working with a colleague in Liberia on issues related to pre-trial detention. In his country, as much as 85% of the prison population is awaiting trial. My colleague would like to see this change.