Restorative justice is a chance to heal, listen
From Mark Hare's column in Democrat and Chronicle:
Several days ago, I wrote about the demographic crisis in many city neighborhoods that is a breeding ground for violent crime. Despite a two-year drop in homicides and violent crime, there is trouble ahead if those neighborhoods are not restored.
That's where the idea of restorative justice comes in.
With the advent of harsher sentencing laws in the 1970s, coupled with increased poverty, huge numbers of young men were swept off city streets and into prison. Incarceration rates put stable marriages and families further out of reach, and led to even more poverty — with all that implies. Young men are still being incarcerated, and large numbers of parolees are being released back to the neighborhoods, but they are unprepared either for jobs or family life.
Partners in Restorative Initiatives, a 9-year-old local agency, could be part of the solution.
"We have a reactive and pro-active role," says Sue Klassen, who
leads the PIRI group. The pro-active model involves setting up "peace
circles" (being tested primarily in Rochester's Monroe High School and
School 29) in which students gather periodically to discover values
they hold in common and work through grievances before they become more
serious. Prevention, Klassen says, is PIRI's first objective.
the reactive side, when a crime occurs, we invite people to come into
the process," she says. The crime could be a minor act of vandalism, or
it could be as serious as homicide. Victims, witnesses, offenders —
anyone affected by the crime — are invited to participate. Volunteers
meet separately with the players before a conference is held....
....The more safe places we can create, the more places we can offer for
people to really hear each other, the stronger the community will be.
Read the whole article.