….A few days later Roy Ferguson, New Zealand Ambassador to the United
States, sent me an email with a story that underlines a more inclusive
approach to accountability. A couple of years ago the organization
American Humane gave an award to New Zealand for what they called “New
Zealand’s gift to humanity.” This was for the Family Group Conference
System of justice. Roy received the award on behalf of New Zealand
along with our Chief Social Worker and the Chief of our Family Court.
New Zealand first introduced this system into legislation around 1988
and it is now regularly used when teenagers get into trouble to see
whether the extended family can take action rather than use the
criminal justice system. It has been adopted by about 20 countries
around the world and about 30 or so States in the US.
Roy said how
moving it was, after the President of American Humane had made a
presentation, to have a Chief from the Lakota tribe of North Dakota
come up and present Royâ€™s delegation with blankets. This was to show
their gratitude for the fact that introducing family group conferences
on to their Reservation had prevented a number of their young people
going off to jail. A great example of how sharing ideas can make the
world a better place for everyone.
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