by: Dave Belden on January 5th, 2013 | Comments Off
Don’t miss this major New York Times Sunday magazine article on a significant story we covered first a year ago in Tikkun in The Day the Jail Walls Cracked: A Restorative Plea Deal by Sujatha Baliga. A 19-year-old man shot and killed his girlfriend, and the young woman’s parents forgave him, motivated by a deep Catholic belief in forgiveness, a sense that both their daughter and Jesus wanted them to forgive, and an understanding that the forgiveness would enable them to survive. In a conservative Florida district, the prosecutor had the courage to allow a full restorative circle to take place as part of the plea development process. This new article goes more deeply into the murder and the ways the families sought a different kind of justice.
I hope my comment on the article may bring some more people to read our entire Restorative Justice issue of a year ago, which is — in my humble opinion as the guest editor of that issue — one of the best things available on this growing movement that is pioneering non-punitive ways of responding to harm. I should say “re-pioneering” since many tribal societies have practiced some version of it for aeons before more civilized options became available.
If you don’t have a print or online subscription to Tikkun (it’s 56 cents a week, or $29 a year here and it would be a blessing to the magazine if you did subscribe), and can’t afford one now, there were a number of articles on restorative justice we published then that are free to all. Those articles answer a number of questions the NY Times readers are asking today.
One is by Jerry Elster, a man who also killed at age 19, though in very different circumstances, and spent 26 years in prison for the crime. In that time he himself was transformed: if anyone doubts that a teen killer can become a community leader and elder they should have the privilege of meeting Jerry today. In another free article, Hamish Sinclair writes about Manalive, the peer-led program he founded, which has had significant success in enabling men to unlearn the “male role belief system” with its focus on male authority and honor, and learn how to be vulnerable, intimate and equal partners with women and men. And we also learn that an entire country has been running its youth justice system on restorative principles for over twenty years. In short, violent men can be rehabilitated, and entire systems can be run on principles of restoring rather than punishing.
And nothing is more important than using restorative circles in school. If Conor and Ann had had a teacher like Rita Alfred, or a “fight room” at school like Dominic Barter’s, who knows what might have happened – they might have learned how to welcome their fights as a way of learning what both of them most needed, and how to meet those needs together and with the help of friends and elders.
This is a movement that is building, and this NYT article will help its momentum.