Restorative Justice

Seeking justice

According to wikipedia.org, restorative justice is a concept that aims to institute repair, reconciliation, and restoration of relationships, as opposed to simply seeking retribution. Though I would not recommend it in every situation—let’s face it, some people are just plain evil and only mean to do harm—it can be quite useful in many situations in which the wrong-doer is willing to make amends. Anyone familiar with the type of 12-step program used by Alcoholics Anonymous has heard about Step 8: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all” and Step 9: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
An example I like to cite that applies to anyone who has ever inadvertently caused an auto accident is the carrying of insurance. With the insurance company acting as a go-between, financial compensation is agreed on for the person whose car was damaged or worse—anyone who has been injured. We carry this insurance as part of our responsibility as a licensed driver. I like this example because of the direct relationship between the damage and/or injury and the cause.
A few years ago, a landmark building in Chillicothe, Ohio was severely damaged by some teenagers who were essentially playing with fire. The damage was beyond these teens’ ability to repair, but it seems these offenders should have had a significant part in the cleanup. So much more can be learned when there is a clear link between cause and effect.
A significant part of this justice is for the offender to take responsibility, to apologize, and to atone. It is hoped the will help restore any relationship between the offender and the victim, and encourage a feeling of community. Instead of seeking revenge, it is hoped that the wronged party can make clear the best way to atone, and can more easily release the anger that can result from their victimization. They have the opportunity to feel less like a hopeless victim, and more like someone with agency in righting the wrong.
And of course, each party is heard. It is human nature to reach out, to tell your story, to want to know that story has truly been heard. And how much better it must be to feel there has been reconciliation instead of an ongoing conflict.