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Justice? What about understanding?

November 12, 2012

I had to shake my head as I read the story and watched the video. I found the behaviour hard to believe. I wondered if the driver truly understood how lucky she was to pull such a stunt without hurting someone. Of course, I have to ask if there can be justice without understanding. I get the punitive reaction. People could have been hurt. Children could have been hurt in what was an unthinking act. So, there is a part of me that understands the “idiot” sign. But does that really bring justice?

Will standing on a sidewalk for two hours help the woman understand why she is there? Will she have any idea why the driver was upset? While she may not go it again, will the thinking that led her to drive up on the sidewalk instead of stopping be changed? I can’t see that happening, not through punitive actions. 

As I’ve said in other articles, this is why restorative processes are important. They provide an avenue for responding that not only seeks justice but also brings understanding. In a restorative process, the bus driver could share his/her concerns about the behaviour. What were his thoughts when he saw the car driving up on the sidewalk? What were his fears? Parents from the community could share the same concerns, fears, and worries. 

In such a process, the driver would have an opportunity to tell her own story. What was she thinking? Why did she feel it was okay to drive on the sidewalk? She would also have the opportunity to listen — in a safe environment — to the other side of the story. She could hear people talk about their fears of someone stepping out on the sidewalk to be hit. She could see the behaviour from another perspective: the perspective of people affected by the actions instead of a punishment perspective. Providing space for such understanding can have a much more profound impact than any punishment. 


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