â€¦.Over twenty years after the tragedy, at the invitation of a friend and neighbor, Jerry Hancock, who was conducting a Restorative Justice program at Columbia Correctional Facility in Portage, I first attended a three-day Restorative Justice â€œtalking circle.â€ It was there in prison, for the first time, that I found a venue strong enough to hold and acknowledge the painful reality of what had happened to my grandmother and her two friends, to me and my family, to the other victimsâ€™ families, to our friends, and to our community.
That restorative justice circle was not the adversarial courtroom setting Iâ€™d experienced, concerned with side bars and procedures and prosecution. Nor was it the sensational national press coverage that reported all the sordid details of the crime. It wasnâ€™t the shocked, embarrassed silence that often accompanies discussion of personal tragedies of this magnitude.
Instead, it was a group of peopleâ€”a â€œcommunity,â€ if you willâ€“who either knew from personal experience, or were willing to honestly acknowledge, the incomprehensible cruelty and terrible damage that violent crime visits on all of us, a community comprised of victims, survivors, offenders, jailers, lawyers, social workers, chaplains, teachers, and others who were willing and able to address that cruelty and damageâ€“openly, bravely, personallyâ€“from the heart. That â€œtalking circleâ€ felt to me like arriving home after a very long journey.
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