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Indybay Feature
The Need for Restorative Justice
by B.Clark
Restorative Justice is needed more then ever as violent crimes rates soar. Restorative Justice works to repair harms created in our communities.
The Need for Restorative Justice
By B.Clark

In a world where we saw murder rates rise by 30 percent in 2020, we can no longer ignore the need for change. Meanwhile people argue over whether people need more time in prisons or less time incarcerated for their crimes. What we aren’t seeing is accountability and positive changes. When the old ways aren’t working, we need to try something different. Restorative Justice may just be the difference we have been needing all along.

Restorative Justice has been used in cases ranging from graffiti all the way up to and including murder. “Restorative justice is not simply a way of reforming the criminal justice system, it is a way of transforming the entire legal system, our family lives, our conduct in the workplace, our practice of politics. It is a vision of holistic change in the way we do justice in the world. It isn’t about the type of crime as much as it’s about making things right or as right as possible. Restorative Justice is about taking accountability for harm. It requires that the person that creates the harm take ownership and responsibility of that harm and any ripple effects that the harm creates.

For example, if I graffiti a fence in my neighborhood and I am caught, I might get a ticket and pay a fine. Restorative Justice would ask, “Who was harmed by my actions of putting graffiti on the fence?” In this situation, it would be the owner of the fence, the neighborhood, and potentially the person who had to paint the fence. There is usually a conference where impacted parties sit with the offender and a facilitator to discuss the incident. Those impacted parties and community members would be given a voice to explain how they were affected and play a part in the decision making around how the offender will repair the harm.

Restorative Justice puts focus on strengthening the connection to the community. A tremendous amount of effort is put into how the offender can also repair the harm in their community, thus creating a place in the community for the person to be seen positively, where they are less likely to reoffend. Our current judicial system looks at the crime and sets out to punish the offender, often leaving them more isolated and less connected to their communities.

Restorative Justice is being piloted in many settings across the US and current data shows that recidivism rates are much lower for people that have been a part of the Restorative Justice process. We know that the current prison system isn’t working and that the longer a person is incarcerated the more likely they are to reoffend. We also see that violent crimes are on the rise. We need to start addressing the harms and making changes, Restorative Justice does this. We need more Restorative Justice in today’s world.

B.Clark is a youth advocate that has been working with marginalized and vulnerable youth populations for over 20 years.
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