Something’s Wrong…

Posted: April 15, 2012 by Ed Griffin in Prison, Reform
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Restorative JusticeI’m not a legal student, but I often wonder if something isn’t wrong with our system of law, which we inherited from the British. Our criminal trials are often lengthy discussions of the law and arguments about the facts. What we don’t consider is the harm to the victim or getting the offender on the right path or restoring confidence to the general public.

I know, I know we pay lip service to these things, but what real help do we give the family whose home has been invaded and trashed? “The insurance will take care of it,” we say. That’s nonsense. Do we provide counseling services for as long as they’re needed to the family of someone murdered? Do we provide for a widow’s future?

And the offender. The British system says, “Put him in a cage for twenty years.” That helps nobody. Our prisons are crime schools and warehouses.

We in the public have the right to live in peace. We shouldn’t have to fear for our safety or that our homes are going to be broken into. The judicial process should also be about restoring the community to good health.

Restorative justice has it right: Restore the victim, the offender and the community.restorative justice


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  1. Ed, I’m currently doing an appraisal for a young man who’s written a 75,000 word novel on a young man in prison. Autobiographical? Who knows, and it’s not my business to ask. But it’s interesting how he says exactly what you are saying about the prison system, how it changes nothing, except, in many cases, to make people even more entrenched in their ways.
    I think the reforms you are advocating will eventaully come to pass, but not in our lifetime. Change, where large corporations stand to lose money, is a long slow process – just look at how long the tobacco industry was able to hang on in the face of the most damning scientific evidence.

  2. Joanne says:

    Lately, I have been making an attempt to better understand the concept of Restorative Justice, so again, this is a very timely post for me. Some people focus on the concept of healing all involved parties (i.e., victims, offender, community). While that is what it is all about, in my view, there needs to be more to the movement than that–or at least more needs to be done in order for the movement to get there.

    For Restorative Justice to be seen as a viable alternative to our current justice system, our society has to first get on board with its principles. In essence, we collectively need to believe that this alternative process of justice can lead to better outcomes over time. This requires a continued effort toward the promotion of attitudinal change from the current prevailing belief that the only route to public saftey is separating the perpetrators from the victims and the community to one where the victims and the community can work together with the perpetrators to make communities safer for all of us, including the offender.

    The process of attitudinal change requires that the greater society is informed of the negative consequences that the current system has as well as the benefits that a Restorative Justice approach has had where it has been implemented.

    I would like to recommend Shanon Moroney’s book “Through the Glass” as I believe it offers a good staring point. In it, Shannon tells the story of how she was victimized by her community after her husband committed horrific offences that she knew nothing about. Shannon describes how, as a victim, she was allowed no voice in the justice process. As well, she points to how our current justice system protects offenders from facing the true consequences of their offences, namely the very real consequences suffered by their victims. Offenders are locked away and in a sense protected from being held accountable from their actions. Of course she does not advocate vigilante justice, but through a Restorative Justice process offenders would face their victims and be expected to explain their actions to them. Many offenders would agree that this would be a very difficult thing for them to do. It is also the first step toward positive change.

    • Joanne, In Aust’a we have Victim Impact Statements, which are delivered in court in the presence of the jury, the victim and the accused. I don’t know a great deal about them, and I imagine they’re not compulsory for any victim. It’s a fairly new development, but I couldn’t say how long it’s been in the judicial system.

      • Ed Griffin says:

        Thanks, Danielle. In Canada and the USA there’s a lot of buzz about Restorative Justice. I think it has its roots in First Nation’s culture.

      • Joanne says:

        Yes, Danielle, Victim Impact Statements also happen here; however, their reading takes place in court and there is no chance for dialogue between the victim and the accused. The victims tend to find this process quite inadequate. The other problem with it is that because it is a one-way exchange, it tends to increase the adversarial nature of justice, rather than promote healing on both sides.

    • Ed Griffin says:

      Thank you, Joanne. I’ve heard from the prison that this inmate really enjoys seeing what people write in response to his posts. He will be thrilled with your comments.
      You say what I was trying to say in a very thoughtful way. Thank you

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