Archive for the tag “Restorative Justice”

Can forgiveness play a role in criminal justice?

Conor McBride, who was convicted of shooting his girlfriend of three years when they were both 19. (CC Ryan Pfluger / NYT NC)

Conor McBride, who was convicted of shooting his girlfriend of three years when they were both 19. (CC Ryan Pfluger / NYT NC)

Paul Tullis writes for nytimes.com:

At 2:15 in the afternoon on March 28, 2010, Conor McBride, a tall, sandy-haired 19-year-old wearing jeans, a T-shirt and New Balance sneakers, walked into the Tallahassee Police Department and approached the desk in the main lobby. Gina Maddox, the officer on duty, noticed that he looked upset and asked him how she could help. “You need to arrest me,” McBride answered. “I just shot my fiancée in the head.” When Maddox, taken aback, didn’t respond right away, McBride added, “This is not a joke.”

… About an hour earlier, at his parents’ house, McBride shot Ann Margaret Grosmaire, his girlfriend of three years. Ann was a tall 19-year-old with long blond hair and, like McBride, a student at Tallahassee Community College. The couple had been fighting for 38 hours in person, by text message and over the phone. They fought about the mundane things that many couples might fight about, but instead of resolving their differences or shaking them off, they kept it up for two nights and two mornings, culminating in the moment that McBride shot Grosmaire, who was on her knees, in the face. Her last words were, “No, don’t!”

Friends couldn’t believe the news. Grosmaire was known as the empathetic listener of her group, the one in whom others would confide their problems, though she didn’t often reveal her own. McBride had been selected for a youth-leadership program through the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce and was a top student at Leon County High School, where he and Grosmaire met. He had never been in any serious trouble. …

At the police station, Conor gave Montgomery the key to his parents’ house. He had left Ann, certain he had killed her, but she was still alive, though unresponsive, when the county sheriff’s deputies and police arrived.

That night, Andy Grosmaire, Ann’s father, stood beside his daughter’s bed in the intensive-care unit of Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. The room was silent except for the rhythmic whoosh of the ventilator keeping her alive. Ann had some brainstem function, the doctors said, and although her parents, who are practicing Catholics, held out hope, it was clear to Andy that unless God did “wondrous things,” Ann would not survive her injuries. Ann’s mother, Kate, had gone home to try to get some sleep, so Andy was alone in the room, praying fervently over his daughter, “just listening,” he says, “for that first word that may come out.”

Ann’s face was covered in bandages, and she was intubated and unconscious, but Andy felt her say, “Forgive him.” His response was immediate. “No,” he said out loud. “No way. It’s impossible.” But Andy kept hearing his daughter’s voice: “Forgive him. Forgive him.”

Read the rest of this powerful story — and how a restorative justice process opened the door for redemption and restoration — by clicking here.
You can learn more about restorative justice by clicking here.

A biblical vision for criminal justice

Eric Metaxas writes on BreakPoint:

We’ve been talking on BreakPoint about the violations of human dignity that are all too common in our criminal justice system. Christians cannot be silent in the face of outrages like prison rape, the mistreatment of mentally ill prisoners and overcrowded prison facilities.

What makes silence even more unacceptable is that there is a biblically-based alternative to the status quo; it’s called restorative justice.

Four years ago, Mike Huckabee summed up one of restorative justice’s key principles when he said that “we’ve got to quit locking up all the people that we’re mad at and lock up the people that we’re really afraid of …”

The distinction between “people we’re mad at” and “people we’re really afraid of” is crucial in restorative justice. Huckabee isn’t the only person to point out the increasingly punitive nature of American criminal justice. Longer sentences, the increased use of solitary confinement, and all but officially giving up on the idea of rehabilitation are just three examples of this trend.

Ironically, our justice system has grown more punitive even as violent crime rates have dropped. While there are exceptions, many American communities are safer than they have been since World War II. For instance, it is statistically safer to walk in Central Park at night today than it was in 1950.

We are spending money we don’t have to confine people “we’re mad at,” such as low-level drug and property offenders.

Restorative justice avoids this trap by treating crime as an offense first and foremost against the victim, not as an offense against the state.

Read the rest of the article by clicking here.

Learn more about the work of Justice Fellowship  at justicefellowship.org.

The Little Book of Restorative Justice

Howard Zehr

How should we as a society respond to wrongdoing? When a crime occurs or an injustice is done, what needs to happen? What does justice require?

For North Americans, the urgency of these questions has been intensified by the traumatic events of September 11, 2001. The debate is an old one, though, and is truly international in scope.

Whether we are concerned with crime or other offenses, the Western legal system has profoundly shaped our thinking about these issues—not only in the Western world, but in much of the rest of the world as well.

The Western legal, or criminal justice, system’s approach to justice has some important strengths. Yet there is also a growing acknowledgment of this system’s limits and failures. Victims, offenders, and community members often feel that justice does not adequately meet their needs. Justice professionals—judges, lawyers, prosecutors, probation and parole officers, prison staff—frequently express a sense of frustration as well. Many feel that the process of justice deepens societal wounds and conflicts rather than contributing to healing or peace.

Restorative justice is an attempt to address some of these needs and limitations. Since the 1970s, a variety of programs and approaches have emerged in thousands of communities and many countries throughout the world. Often these are offered as choices within or alongside the existing legal system. Starting in 1989, however, New Zealand has made restorative justice the hub of its entire juvenile justice system.

In many places today, restorative justice is considered a sign of hope and the direction of the future.

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