Thursday, October 25, 2012

Restorative Justice Efforts

Hello all,
Been thinking a lot these days about ways to interrupt the cycles of violence that are so prevalent in our society.
 I am the survivor of a homicide victim.  My son Joel was murdered when he was "just 19".  I have met with two of his killers.  They have both served their prison time and are back out in our community.  I have asked each of them to make committments to stay clean and sober; get a job and earn an honest living; talk to young people about their mistakes and to cause no more harm to self, family and community.  They are keeping those committments.  They both say that if they had not had this restorative encounter; they have no doubt that they would be back to a life of wrong-doing; back in prison or dead themselves.  They are no longer doing dirt or causing harm to our community.  We, in community benefit from them living a "good life".
Restorative Justice is about understanding, about human relationships, about restoring balance when things go wrong.  It is about the needs of someone who has been harmed and the obligation of the person who caused the harm to meet those needs.  When you think about it in terms of domestic violence; people get scared.  People are afraid of the power and control dynamic tha t indeed does need to be acknowledged.  People are afraid of the re-victimization of the partner who has been repeatedly hurt.  All of these are legitimate concerns. 
Understanding those who batter as people who were most likely victimized themselves in their life brings a more compassionate perspective to who they are and to how to reach them in a way that could end their own cycle of violence.  Even if someone who is being abused leaves their offending partner; that partner will most likely go on to abuse somebody else.  This is not to excuse their actions; it is to understand them and to help them to understand their actions; so that they are able to change their way of being regardless of whether they stay, return to this relationship or begin a new one.
 So many times, love being the strong emotion that it is, people in domestic violence situations return to their partners.  If restorative justice practices were in place to those families who are going to get back togehter again anyway and who are willing to search their soul and try something different; there is an opportunity to put safety measures in place. (Safety mapping:Signs of Safety by Andrew Trunnel).  There would need to be preparation with both parties separately and preparation with all family members, extended family and close friends willing to be part of this.  This network would act as a community of support and accountability.
The person who caused the harm would hear from all involved the impact their actions have had on all members of the family and the larger network. Through the process they would own their responsibility and make agreements for future accountability.  The network of family and friends would help to hold them accountable to these agreements and offer support to both parties to stay on track.
Another situation where restorative justice practices could be positively instrumental is in situations when a couple has children even if they are not going to get back together again.
These processes and safety measures can help make for smoother, less conflicting transitions as children go from one parent to another.
Restorative Justice and Domestic Violence may not at first seem like they go together.... but it is worth reflecting upon.

Janet Connors is a restorative justice practitioner in the Boston area.  She works with Mothers for Justice as well as schools and community centers throughout the city.  She can be contacted at

No comments:

Post a Comment