PRISON FELLOWSHIP INTERNATIONAL│Centre for Justice and Reconciliation


Updates on restorative developments worldwide


November 2011
Following are some of the most interesting, commented on or read items from RJOB – Restorative Justice Online Blog – during October.




Restorative Justice Week 2011 materials now available
from the Correctional Service Canada website:
Every year, the Restorative Justice Division and the Chaplaincy Branch work collaboratively with community partners to develop a variety of complimentary resources to be shared with individuals and communities around the world. Included below are resources meant to inspire and assist those who plan to promote and celebrate the Week.

A little girl’s memories stir questions about good and evil: Terror in a small town
from Wayne Drash’s four part series on
….I first met Rebecca a year ago, after writing a story about a man who survived his family’s massacre. She told me she had a similar tale to share.
It began with death threats over the phone, she said, then letters and drive-by shootings. The church and parsonage were bombed — 10 times to be precise.
The terror stretched on for more than six years.
Neither local nor state nor federal lawmen were able to stop the assaults. It ended in the parsonage, three days before Easter in 1978, as the family sat down to dinner.

Prison Reform Trust poll finding: 88% support restorative justice after the riots
by Lizzie Nelson
In 1998 the British Crime Survey found that 41% of victims said they would agree to meet the offender, if this was offered to them, and 58% would accept reparation from the offender. In September this year, following the riots that took place across England in August 2011, an ICM poll, commissioned by the Prison Reform Trust found that 88% of the public thought victims of crime should have the right to tell offenders the impact of their crime; 94% believe offenders should make amends by doing unpaid work in the community; and 71% believe the victim should have a say in how the offender should make amends for the harm they have caused.

Child Justice Act undercut from within
from the article by Don Pinnock in the Mail & Guardian Online:
Even before it began the rocky climb through the parliamentary process, the Child Justice Bill was considered to be internationally path-breaking legislation. It was born in the euphoria of the early 1990s in a country where youth had been considered politically lethal, whipping was a sentence, imprisonment the standard response to wrongdoing and torture considered a legitimate interrogation method.
The new legislation sought to provide restorative justice by diverting child offenders from this punitive justice system and keeping them out of prisons, which simply hardened criminality. It devised ways to work with offenders and victims to restore harmony in the community where the crime took place. Punishment would be tailored to the crime and dealt in a way that maintained the self-respect of the offender as well as the approval of both community and victim.




The meeting: Jo’s story – Surviving rape
From the Restorative Justice Council’s website:
This new DVD resource from the RJC follows the story of Jo Nodding, a victim of serious crime who met her offender.
Below are excerpts from Jo’s story:
In 2004 I was raped by a boy I knew. For weeks afterwards I was in a daze trying to cope with what had happened not only to me, but also to my family. He didn’t plead guilty to the rape to start with, so I had the extra worry of the trial, but that changed once he was presented with the DNA evidence. The first time I faced him was in Court when he received a life sentence.
Almost a year later I had a visit from the probation Victim Liaison Officer and she mentioned the possibility of restorative justice – of a meeting with Darren. From that time on it was always at the back of my mind. I knew as soon as she said it that I wanted to meet him because this was about me taking control of the situation, re-balancing what he had taken away from me that day. The judge had said to Darren in Court ‘you have destroyed this woman’s life’ – but that wasn’t what I wanted, and that wasn’t how I saw it.

Restorative justice in the community
from Melanie G. Snyder’s blog entry:
Michael was 16. He was an angry kid. He spent most of his days just “hanging out” around the neighborhood. One day, Michael was “hanging out” in a small Lancaster grocery store. While he was in the store, Michael pulled a cigarette lighter out of his pocket, lit the corners of a few boxes on the shelves and watched as the flames spread. Then he ran away.
The fire caused $1500 worth of damage.
Michael got caught, and he was sent to juvenile court.
If we think about how the traditional criminal justice system would have most likely handled this, Michael would probably have been charged with arson (a felony), possibly charged as an adult, and likely would have been sent to juvenile detention or jail for some period of time. After coming out of detention or jail, having a felony record would have affected the rest of Michael’s life in numerous ways.

Walla Walla prison restorative dialogue
From the article by Lorenn Walker on the Restorative Practices Blog:
Colleen Shapel’s husband Bob, who was also her best friend for most of her life, was senselessly murdered in a February 2004 robbery. Melissa, Colleen’s oldest daughter, and William Schorr, a co-defendant who plead guilty to the murder, also participated in the restorative dialogue (another defendant who was determined to be most responsible for the murder refused to participate).
After I was first contacted, and until the dialogue was finally conducted six months later in July, I spoke on the phone with Colleen, Melissa and William frequently. I met Colleen and Melissa in person several times a few days, and William a few hours, before the dialogue.
I felt my job was to mainly listen to their pain, and simply be present with them in their suffering.

How victim rights became a juggernaut shaping spending, laws and the future of punishment
from the article by Alan Prendergast in Denver Westword:
Newly elected as a state representative, Pete Lee hit the Capitol last January fired up with big ideas. The biggest of them all was the restorative-justice bill he introduced shortly after the session began.

The limits of empathy
from David Brooks’ column in the New York Times:
….Empathy orients you toward moral action, but it doesn’t seem to help much when that action comes at a personal cost. You may feel a pang for the homeless guy on the other side of the street, but the odds are that you are not going to cross the street to give him a dollar.
There have been piles of studies investigating the link between empathy and moral action. Different scholars come to different conclusions, but, in a recent paper, Jesse Prinz, a philosopher at City University of New York, summarized the research this way: “These studies suggest that empathy is not a major player when it comes to moral motivation. Its contribution is negligible in children, modest in adults, and nonexistent when costs are significant.” Other scholars have called empathy a “fragile flower,” easily crushed by self-concern.




Coming face to face with emotion behind office conflict
from the article by Kelly Burke in The Sydney Morning Herald:
….”Then I was amazed by what I saw. Unlike mediation, restorative justice depends on the release of emotion, and most workplaces are terrified of emotion. There is an assumption that if emotion is displayed, nothing is going to be solved … But here anger and frustration were being openly expressed. There were high levels of emotion and conflict, and that of course is the bread and butter of the dramatist.”
Today, McDonald is the managing director of the multi-national company ProActive ReSolutions, using the techniques he first developed while working as an adviser on youth crime to the police commissioner John Avery in the 1980s.

Restorative justice and violent crime
from the article by Melanie G. Snyder:
….Over a period of six months, Marie and another mediator met with Jenny regularly, to help her prepare to meet with Dave face to face. They asked her what had made her decide she wanted to meet with Dave, and what her expectations were for a face to face meeting. They helped her to think through what questions she might want to ask Dave, and what things she wanted to say to him. They discussed Dave’s possible reactions and asked Jenny how it might feel to see him, and to listen to things he might want to say.

Murderers turned peacemakers
from the article by Laurel Kaufer on Peace X Peace:
How is it that women, with dark pasts, serving time for murder and manslaughter, could possibly become honored peacemakers?
Their story is one of personal commitment to themselves and the community in which most are destined to live out their lives. “This is an environment filled with conflict and violence. There is a dire need and want for change,” says Susan Russo, one of the fifteen initial peacemakers, serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole at the largest prison for women in the world, Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, CA. “Mediation interests all of us because we are lifers and long-termers hoping to make a difference in teaching our peers that there is a better way.”
Beginning her quest in 2007, Sue Russo wrote over 50 handwritten letters from prison to mediators all over California. Her letters went unanswered until August of 2009 when one of her letters made it to me, Laurel Kaufer, Esq., a Southern California mediator and peacemaker and founder of the post-Katrina Mississippi Mediation Project.




The offer of restorative justice to victims of violent crime: Should it be protective or proactive?
from the study by Jo_Anne Wemmers and Tinneke Van Camp:
The victims in our sample suggest generalizing the offer of restorative justice to all victims. Themselves victims of very serious crimes, they experienced the beneficial impact of participation in a restorative intervention. However, while they believe that all victims should be informed about restorative opportunities, they emphasize that victims have to feel ready to participate in such programs.

Texas achieves dramatic results in criminal justice reform
from the press release from Right on Crime (hat tip to Grits for Breakfast):
Right on Crime and the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) today released two policy briefs regarding Texas’ extensive criminal justice reforms in juvenile and adult corrections. Over the last decade, the groups’ policy advisors have been instrumental in working with the Texas legislature and Governor Rick Perry to overhaul the state’s corrections system.
“For the first time in state history, Texas closed a prison because we don’t need it anymore,” said Marc Levin, Senior Policy Advisor to Right on Crime, who also serves as the Director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “The reforms that were first adopted in Texas have stimulated similar initiatives across the nation in South Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, Ohio, Arkansas, and other states. Crime has dropped in Texas since the changes and taxpayers have saved more than a billion dollars from not building new prisons. We believe these commonsense policies, which were supported by ‘tough and smart on crime’ conservatives and are outlined in these reports, can serve as an effective model for other states.”




Urban Crime Prevention, Surveillance and Restorative Justice.
by Eric Assur
This work is a collection of papers on various themes from the 2006 Criminology conference at the University of Sheffield. As might be expected, the presenters are generally from London, Oxford, and Cambridge, Sheffield and/or United Kingdom governments. This review will only comment on the four Restorative Justice (RJ) segments, almost 100 pages, of the book.
The restorative justice themes are broad (adult courts, juvenile justice, community applications) and the focus is limited to Northern Ireland and Britain. Much can be learned by the North American reader willing to sit with a cup of tea and a mind that is open to different models or approaches to using restorative justice, unfamiliar laws, new terms, and spelling alien to English speakers across the pond.

After the crime: the power of restorative justice. Dialogues between victims and violent offenders
reviewed by Martin Wright
Violence, rape, murder and other abusive crimes: not usually pleasant subjects to read about, yet Susan Miller’s book left this reader with a positive feeling. This is largely due to Miller herself, who presents the information in a straightforward, sympathetic but non-judgemental way; to Kim Book, who started the organization Victims’ Voices Heard after her daughter was murdered; and to the participants themselves. Not all victims felt able to forgive, and this should not be a criterion for ‘success’; but they followed the Amish precept: don’t balance hurt with hate. Not all offenders accepted full responsibility. Miller divides restorative justice into diversion, taking the place of the criminal justice process for relatively minor cases, and ‘therapeutic’ RJ, where the offender is already in custody or has served a prison term. These cases are all in the latter category.

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