Monday, July 18, 2011

Reparative Justice

Every prisoner behind bars was once some one's baby.
   Justice is a crazy concept.  We've read recently the story of the boy shot in the head in California, Scottie has shown us the stories of numerous people being chased and chastised even after fulfilling the punishment set out by the judge, and you've all seen my banner for young Jordan who is still fighting for his life in jail.   The thought of putting someone in prison would seem to some to be the ends of Justice, but in most cases it's simply the end of caring.
  If you look into a criminal case, the report will read "We the People of _____ vs. Mr. ABC".  It is always "We the People...", as if the prosecutor, the people's champion in this particular little joust, really cares and is truly representing the injured party.  This is the classic adversarial process, in which the people of the community have felt the injury and are therefore seeking redress, and yet most victims and their families will tell you that they feel completely forgotten in the process and no one really seems to care what they think.
  Justice can become the faceless machine process where little is cared for the why and the who, only the what.  In some cases, perhaps that is necessary as the painful process of dealing in such waters would quickly take a toll.  Of course, it would:  These are lives at stake!  And yet, a disheartened and detracted approach survives the morality of the situation when the expediency takes center position.
  Truth be told, it's hard to care.  It's difficult to be human in situations where humanity has failed and hard choices are necessary.  Ask any parent who has ever spanked a child and they will tell you there have been times when hurting the child to avoid allowing a greater hurt to develop has been the hardest thing they've ever done.  Ask another question and you'll find that parents who have grounded a child feel themselves as the ones being grounded as they are quickly become the gaoler and forced to enforce their proscription of justice.  Jail guards, judges, prosecutors, all are people and all have hearts.  In the end, if they don't harden their hearts to the inhumanity of the process they soon begin to see the defendants and prisoners as actual people
  The interesting thing about the adversarial process in justice is that sooner or later, the defendant....and this is going to sound really crazy here....becomes very defensive.  He begins to realize that he is not looking at some utopian  mommy or daddy who care about him and want to simply teach him a lesson to avoid further problems.  He begins to quickly realize that this is his life in jeopardy, be it a short stint in the pokey or a life long change of residence.  He begins to realize he is in a corner, in a box if you will, and there are a whole group of people hungry for his blood.  He begins to put up walls, become aggressive, change his views of the situation and seek to find ways out of it.  The concept of accepting the consequences of his actions pale beside the instinct for self preservation.  If this soul is in such a position, he garners a champion of his own to fight the system and the system's champions who placed him here.
  I imagine you are thinking 'so what' about now.  Well, I thought it might be necessary to lay all of that out to get to this point:  Restorative Justice. 

  We don't use the concept of RJ in this country, no to really speak of.  It's time consuming, it's hard because it has no crazy little political slogans like "zero tolerance", "mandatory minimums" and such.  It's heart-wrenching as it forces people to open themselves to the humanity of the tragedy and lose the shield of vengeful wrath.

  I hope I've interested you in the notion.  I'd like to speak further on this over the coming posts and such.  In the mean time, check out this link as a beginning primer for the concept and let me know what you think.


Sammy B said...

Hello Randy
It's an interesting question, and comes down, as I see it, to a choice similar to other issues you've raised here, between thinking and reacting. The conventional form of justice, in my country and in yours, is reactionary, and seems to me to be more akin to revenge, whereas 'restorative justice' is more thoughtful, requiring everyone, offenders, victims and the wider community, to think about what has happened, why, and what can be done to both repair the immediate damage and prevent a recurrence. Given the lack of interest many, if not most, people in the modern world seem to have in thinking deeply about anything at all, sadly seems to militate against any fundamental reappraisal of how to deal with justice, any time soon. I hope I'm proved wrong, though.

Love & best wishes
Sammy B

randy said...

Hi Sammy;
It is so much easier to scream than think, isn't it? Thank you for your great comment.
You know, one thing though... the tendency to be aware of a problem does often times begin the solution. Hope.

Anonymous said...

In Germany, restorative Justice is named "Täter-Opfer-Ausgleich" (offender-victim-compensation in german).
This method is becoming increasingly popular. She gets her sense wherever the punishment is not viewed as revenge but as an educational aspect. Our juvenile justice system provides for a maximum penalty of 10 years. During this period, the perpetrators should have been socialized to such an extent that he will not offend again if he is released back to freedom from juvenile prison or juvenile detention (re-socialization is the main aspect).
However, in such countries, where the prison are in private ownership and profit-oriented, this method will have no chance, because this is labor-consuming and therefore expensive.

randy said...

Hi Nikki;
Thank you for your comment.
I know that there are some private prisons, but I believe the majority are state and federal. The taxes, of course, support my state they spend more on prisons than education, which seems quite telling.
The focus here is not on socialization, but on wharehousing and "protecting the public". Very effective on the former, not at all on the later when one considers the huge price for housing and feeding and etc. of prisoners, but little going toward teaching and helping. The person going in is likely better than what comes out. A poor investment for the public, thinks I.

Scottie said...

Hi Guys, many good points have been raised, but what hit me most was when Randy mentioned that the whole process was dehumanizing. I don't want a method of justice that has no human context. It is useless to me and hard to accept that we have a system people have devoted their lives to , that is some type of mechanical machine, that it is rote.

I want judges that have compassion not only for the victims, but also for the accused. After all the accused is innocent until PROVEN guilty. I hate taking the discretion out of the judges hands with mandatory sentencing. I hate slogans like "Zero Tolerance" because they fix nothing, as they treat each situation as the same, when they can't be. no two people are the same so how can every situation fit one box. I also think it cheapens the victims if we take the human element out of it. I never want a prosecutor or a defense attorney who are in it only for the war they wage against each other, and collect their pay. How can they be helping society if they cant see the people they are working to protect, both sides should be protecting.

I could go on but I realize I may be looking for a type of justice that doesn't exist. So the question I have to ask is, "how do we create it, make it real, give our society a justice that sees the people involved, not just numbers.

We have surgeons who will rush a Pt from surgery to our ICU so that they don't die on the operating table and count against the surgeons record. I have seen Pts die in transit, but get pronounced in our ICU, which saves the surgeon from having a PT die on THEM. It is all about the numbers, not how they are created, or if they are real. I guess the justice system we have asked for or allowed to be is the same. It is all about the numbers.

Why.....WHY ?????

Sad and confused hugs,

randy said...

Hi Scottie;
Like everything, money seems the driving motivation. If a prosecutor has a good "conviction" record, or a lawyer has a good "win" record, or a surgeon has a good record, the end result is more money; raises, promotions, bonuses, political office. People are so caught up in the game they forget the goal is no to win but to finish.
It reminds me of a story; a boy brought his teacher a beautiful shell found only in a certain cay of the area. It wasn't really expensive, but it was beautiful and relatively rare. He walked for two days to get the shell and bring it back. When the teacher received the shell and was told the story she told him it was so very beautiful but that he shouldn't have walked all that way. The boy replied, 'But teacher, the gift was not the shell, it was the walk to get it'. Moral: caring and effort need to be first, and our government systems are short of both all too often.
Hugs my Friend;

Scottie said...

Hello Randy. Busy day today...some times my off days are busier than my work days. I read what you wrote and it is so good. I have thought of a start to changing our ways, our system from what we have to what is right, what we need. That is you! Your that boy who brought the shell, showing us the way. keep it up, we are learning. The more of us you reach, the more powerful the good becomes.

Hugs .

randy said...

Thank you, Scottie; That's sweet. In the end, we all just need to think a bit. I think we've all allowed the system its way for far too long, be it politics, justice, or even in more personal issues. We coast without concen far too often.

hugs, and have a great productive day.