Tags: Law Enforcement | crime | justice | victims

Will 2021 Be the Year for 'Restorative Justice'?

Will 2021 Be the Year for 'Restorative Justice'?

(Steven Tritton/Dreamstime.com)

By Tuesday, 29 December 2020 09:50 AM Current | Bio | Archive

They say the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting different results. I say that’s the definition of government.

Never is this more true than when we examine our country’s criminal justice policies, where we have been doubling down on the same failed approaches for decades. It’s time to ask, in a country with over 336 million people, doesn’t anyone have new ideas?

Fortunately, they do. But the people with the ideas aren’t always the people in positions of power to put them into effect. Go into any community that suffers from more than its share of crime. Speak to the people who live there.

Get to know those who have been most impacted by violence or by the justice system. You’ll find that they have many creative ideas — and they’re often already implementing them, with great success — for ways to strengthen their communities and increase public safety.

You’ll also find that their needs and ideas often sound very different than those pushed by the politicians claiming to represent them.

Politicians, district attorneys, police, and other members of law enforcement will often lobby for their own power and against criminal justice reform. They do it in the name of victims and their families, claiming that harsh, punitive punishments are what victims, their families, and communities want and need. And they’ve been successful at making that narrative pervasive.

But show up at state capitols when a death penalty repeal bill is being pushed, and who you see in those committee rooms may surprise you. In both of the states that passed repeal bills in the past two years (New Hampshire and Colorado), over three dozen murder victims’ family members showed up to share how the death penalty has harmed them and in favor of getting rid of it.

In recent years, many crime survivors have been calling for restorative justice in place of punitive responses to violence. What, you may ask, is restorative justice? It can take many different forms, as it is customizable to the needs of victims, their families, and communities. But these approaches usually begin with the following three questions

  1. Who has been harmed?

  2. What do they need to heal from that harm?

  3. Who should be accountable and meet those needs?

  4. There’s much here for conservatives to like. These are small government solutions that can be held at the local level. They are not a one-size-fits-all approach but rather allow for in-real-time adjustments and tailor-made solutions that make the best use of our resources. They often also involve private-public partnerships, which can reduce the fiscal costs.

When harm occurs, the restorative justice approach brings all parties together to determine how best to address the harm and to facilitate healing.

Survivors decide what they need in order to heal, and those who have harmed learn the impact of their actions and participate in the process of repairing the harm.

When built correctly, a restorative justice process requires and encourages truth telling from everyone involved.

This cannot happen in our current legal system because an admission of harm would lead to immediate harsh punishment.

Working from a place of truth also enables a greater focus on the survivor’s healing.

And restorative justice produces results.

Survivors of harm are often seeking restorative justice approaches over traditional approaches to accountability.

The community is more involved.

Restorative justice reduces incarceration rates and is much more cost effective than the existing system.

The understanding created between survivors and those who harmed them is also more likely to lead to changed behaviors. Outcomes from established restorative justice programs show that participants are less likely to harm in the future.

Many survivors of harm or a crime know that they are not going to get what they need from the current justice system.

That’s often the reason why many crimes aren’t reported to law enforcement in the first place. Restorative justice is a response that reflects survivors’ real needs and offers a real opportunity for healing.

2020 has been a year of death, destitution, and destruction.

The country is in desperate need of new ideas, new approaches to old problems, and hope.

Restorative justice is a light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

We ought to give it a try; there’s nowhere to go from here but up.

Hannah Cox is the National Manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. Hannah was previously Director of Outreach for the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a free-market think tank. Prior to that, she was Director of Development for the Tennessee Firearms Association and a policy advocate for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Read Hannah Cox's Reports — More Here.

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2020 has been a year of death, destitution, and destruction. The country is in desperate need of new ideas, new approaches to old problems, and hope. Restorative justice is a light at the end of a very dark tunnel. We ought to give it a try; there’s nowhere to go from here but up.
crime, justice, victims
Tuesday, 29 December 2020 09:50 AM
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