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Restorative justice and violent crime

October 4, 2011

Jenny’s family was outraged that she planned to meet with Dave. “They were hounding me so bad, saying I shouldn’t do the mediation. I questioned whether I really wanted to go through with it. I was scared to death,” she said. “But I knew this was something I needed to do to save myself.” Jenny had a lot she wanted to say to Dave about how he had turned her life upside down. And she had questions that had weighed on her for years, that only he could answer.

Because Jenny had never been inside a prison, the mediators explained what it would look and sound like, what she should and should not wear, what she would be allowed to bring to the meeting, and the process they would follow for the meeting.
The mediators also had Jenny decide things like whether she wanted to be in the meeting room first, and have Dave brought in, or whether she wanted Dave to already be in the meeting room when she arrived.

During the six months when the mediators were spending time with Jenny, they were also meeting regularly with Dave in the prison to help him prepare for the mediation. Dave was terrified at the prospect of having to face Jenny, at having to see her rage and hurt over what he had done. He was afraid of breaking down in front of her, and afraid that she just wanted a chance to scream in rage at him or to somehow seek revenge. At the prison, the other inmates were harassing him for agreeing to meet with Jenny, and told him he shouldn’t do it. But Dave also wanted a chance for redemption, and he understood that Jenny needed a chance to say some things to him and ask him questions. He told Marie Hamilton, “There’s nothing else I could ever do to make up for what I did—but at least I can do this.”

Finally, after months of intensive preparation, both Jenny and Dave seemed ready to meet. So the mediators scheduled the face to face meeting at the prison where Dave was serving his sentence.

Read the whole article (two parts).


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