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The Limits of Reconciliation: The Story of a Perpetrator, Katherine Ann Power

Landman, Janet
June 4, 2015

Source: (2001) Social Justice Research. 14(2):171-188.

In this paper, I apply concepts of restorative justice, along with moral philosopher Joanna North’s (1998) multistage model of the process of earning forgiveness to the case of 1960s antiwar militant, Katherine Power. Both frameworks assume that forgiveness ought to culminate in reconciliation between perpetrator and victim. On September 23, 1970, Katherine Ann Power, a 20 year old
college student, was a member of a group of five who were robbing a bank near Boston to support the movement against the VietnamWar. One fromthe group stayed at the bank and shot and killed a Boston police officer and father of nine. UnderMassachusetts’ felony murder law, all five were chargeable with murder. Power went underground for 23 years, remaining on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list longer than any other woman in history. During her fugitive years, Power lived her life in a purposeful attempt to make atonement. Ultimately, though, she came to understand that her crime was not a private matter, but demanded social and relational modes of remediation, including public confession, public penance (in a ‘penitentiary’), and efforts at reconciliation with the family of her victim. So in 1993, she turned herself in, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and began serving an 8-12-year sentence in Massachusetts. She completed her prison sentence in October, 1999. Power spent her years in prison engaging in reflection and action that maps well onto the first
five stages of North’s model and onto much of the restorative justice model. So far, though, Power’s efforts have failed to yield the hypothesized reconciliation with her victims. Examination of the parallels and divergences between these theoretical frameworks and Power’s narrative provides significant insight into the meaning, the promise, and the limits of reconciliation.


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