Restorative Justice is an alternative to lock them up and throw away the key system. Our new district attorney Larry Krasner has implemented restorative justice in Philadelphia courts. Our courts have not embraced restorative justice and stick to adversrial justice. Adversarial justice looks to point the finger and punish. Restorative justice is about treating the root cause of the harm and not criminalizing the offensive. Under restorative justice people with mental health needs are treated for mental health at a mental health facility and not in prison where there’s very little to no mental health support. People with addictions would get help to rehabilitate versus a prison cell that causes withdrawal issues. Restorative justice is getting push back from deeply rooted stuck in their ways bias that have hindered fair justice practice in our courtrooms.
Changing The Justice Standards:
Restorative Justice was created by criminologist and others measuring the affects of mass incarceration. The current system of justice is based on conventional justice. Convential justice collects evidence to process a guilty or not guilty plea. Conventional justice is created by legislation focused on being tough on crime versus understanding the circumstances.
There are three parts to restorative justice:
Restorative justice includes the the accused, the victim and the community. There is no fact finding evidence to punish.
1. The victim must agree to participate in restorative justice and gets a referral to attend restorative justice mediation.
2. Acceptance of Responsibility for Harm. Not pleading guilty, but understanding that harm was done by the accused and the accused take responsibility for their actions.The facts are used to find a holistic healing approach for all involved.
All facts and evidence discovered stays in the mediation space and is never used in a courtroom.
The accused and victim have face to face conversations and come up with a healing plan.
3. The community helps facilitate the meetings, provide resources and holds the accused accountable with a circle of support that helps the accused become a trusted member of the community.
What’s needed is restorative justice hubs in every community so people can learn of justice alternatives.
My only son, Ronald D. Simpson III, was murdered on Father’s Day 13 years ago. Ronald was 21. His killer was a 14-year-old boy.
We were devastated, as any parents would have been. Despite this, my son’s mother and I did not want our son’s killer to spend the rest of his life in prison. We don’t believe in the concept of an eye for an eye. We also did not want to compound an already bad situation by taking another child away from his family and our community forever.
We recognize that even though he committed a horrible crime, the boy who killed our son was still a child. We wanted him to be processed in the juvenile system, which was set up specifically for children. We wanted him tried there and held there after his conviction to prepare him for release. The judge granted our wishes. The young teen was sentenced in juvenile court and told that he would be released at age 21 if he met the requirements of the court and demonstrated his rehabilitation. He succeeded and was released.
We were fortunate that we dealt with a prosecutor and judge who were willing to consider our wishes. As evidenced by the growing national support for restorative-justice programs, my family’s perspective is certainly not unique. The residents of the communities that are most impacted by both violence committed by young people and extreme sentences often recognize that we don’t make our communities safe by creating artificial lines between “victims” and “offenders.” We know that many of the children accused of crime have themselves been victims of violence, neglect, poverty, inadequate schools and failing social services. In addition, many of our families are suffering after having lost some members to violent crime and others to jail.
But too often, the voices of poor people and people of color are silenced on these issues. Prosecutors and others in the criminal- and juvenile-justice systems are far more likely to prioritize the perspectives of individuals from wealthier, whiter communities. The only victims who are considered legitimate are those who are in lockstep with prosecutors looking to implement the harshest penalties possible. Victim services, financial resources and other types of support are often meted out accordingly.
Research has proved what many parents already know: Children are still developing and possess tremendous capacity for change. We also know that they do not have the same capacity as adults to resist pressure from peers and adults, think through the long-term consequences of their actions or remove themselves from dangerous situations.
As we approach another Father’s Day, I call on parents and other interested people from these communities to insist on having our voices heard. We must insist that police engage our communities fairly and stop targeting children of color. We must insist on accountability from juries who determine the fate of our young people.
And as states throughout the country reconsider their juvenile sentencing policies, we must insist not only that they eliminate life without parole but also that they replace it with reasonable alternatives that provide young people with a chance to pay for their mistakes and then later have fruitful, fulfilling lives.
Everyone makes mistakes, and all of us—especially children—possess the capacity to change. We are all deserving of forgiveness and a chance to begin anew. This is a basic tenet of virtually every faith tradition, and one of the founding principles of our great democracy.
The child who killed my son is now a young man. I am not in direct contact with him, but we are forever bonded. My son and his sister had a child together, so my grandson is his nephew.
He has grown into a productive man all because he had a second chance, which is all that any of us could want. Together, we can be sure that more young people get the chance they need and deserve.
Ronald D. Simpson-Bey is a program associate for the American Friends Service Committee in Ann Arbor, Mich. He is a co-founder and board member of the organization Chance for Life.
The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.
To prepare participants to assess conflicts and use restorative practices to address issues of concern in the community.
The workshop includes:
- Introduction to restorative justice theory;
- Conflict assessment and the quest for transformation;
- Introduction to restorative practices, such as circles, community conferencing and victim-offender dialogue;
- Facilitation Skills and Techniques;
- How to conduct face-to-face meetings designed to build community and facilitate restoration, healing, restitution, and reconciliation.
Ideal for community leaders, mediators, social workers, teachers, school counselors, criminal justice specialists and human resource practitioners.
Upcoming Restorative Practices Workshops
September 12, 2019 – September 13, 2019
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day
- $300.00 – NO PA-CLE or NASW-CEU Credits
- $350.00 – With PA-CLE or NASW-CEU Credits
- $270.00 – PCM member discount: NO PA-CLE or NASW-CEU Credits
- $320.00 – PCM member discount: With PA-CLE or NASW-CEU Credits
Good Shepherd Mediation Program
2000 Hamilton Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130
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