More than half of victims of violent crime
don’t even call the police in the first place. They prefer nothing to
everything we have to offer. The vast majority of crime survivors’ pain goes unhealed. What the existence of restorative justice means is that we can no longer pretend we don’t know what else to do. As a country we are really
good at punishment. It’s passive, it doesn’t require people to act or think.
It certainly doesn’t require them to change. When we lock people up we excuse them
from their responsibility to answer for what they’ve done. Restorative justice is a process to hold
them accountable. It’s a tool. People take turns answering
questions like what happened? What needs arise? Whose responsibility is it to meet those
needs? And how is that person going to do it? It requires someone to take
responsibility to repair things as much as possible and to never commit that
harm again. This isn’t about feeling sorry it’s about doing sorry. Things like
go to school, get a job, pay restitution, apologize, do community service.
Restorative justice practices have been used to address low-level infractions
like vandalism up to addressing the impact of murders on the surviving
family members. Restorative Justice processes are first and foremost about meeting the
needs of people who are hurt sometimes the person who can make the greatest
contribution to a survivor’s healing is the person who harmed them. To come through trauma, we need answers
to our questions so say my life was never the same after you hurt me like that.
Crime survivors want the most safety possibly available so if incarceration
actually produce safety we would have the safest country in human history. That’s not what we have. The core drivers of violence or shame
isolation and inability meet one’s economic needs and exposure to violence
and we dig those into prisons to try and keep people from committing further
violence. Incarceration exposes people to exactly the things that increase the
likelihood that they’ll go on to harm others. People who are hurt deserve a
process that will help them heal. People who are responsible for crying have an
obligation to be accountable for that all of us deserve responses to crime
that actually make us safer. Our current criminal justice system doesn’t deliver
any of those and restorative justice at its best delivers them all.