restorative justice

Bryan Stevenson 01-20-2016

People of color in the United States, particularly young black men, are burdened with a presumption of guilt and dangerousness. Some version of what happened to me has been unfairly experienced by hundreds of thousands of black and brown people throughout this country. As a consequence of our nation’s historical failure to address the legacy of racial inequality, the presumption of guilt and the racial narrative that created it have significantly shaped every institution in American society, especially our criminal justice system.

03-04-2015
Standing outside the prison that night, Tragesser couldn't see it as anything but an act of God.
03-03-2015
The impending execution of Georgia death-row inmate Kelly Gissendaner has an international audience.
03-03-2015
Theologians from various traditions have joined together in an effort to gain clemency for death row inmate—and fellow theologian—Kelly Gissendaner.
Benjamin Corey 02-04-2014
Lady justice, Rob Wilson / Shutterstock.com

Lady justice, Rob Wilson / Shutterstock.com

America’s justice system is broken.

Our jails are overflowing, people are receiving life sentences for minor crimes under three strikes laws, racial disparities leave minority populations disproportionately represented in the incarcerated population, and we’re so obsessed with killing that we’re now using untested concoctions of drugs that recently took a condemned inmate more than 20 minutes to finally die.

Our system isn’t working.

It might surprise you however, to understand how we arrived at such a broken justice system.

We got here because of poor theology.

Benjamin Corey 01-31-2014
UAlbany National Death Penalty Archives

UAlbany National Death Penalty Archives

The difficulty of restorative justice, is that some things simply can’t be restored.

Certainly, not 14-year-old George Stinney. He’s been dead almost 70 years.

We can however, restore his name — and sometimes, that’s all restorative justice can do. Restorative justice works to make whole what has been unjustly lost and reassemble that which has been unjustly broken, to the greatest degree humanly possible. While we can’t restore 14-year-old George to life, we can both restore his name and work to restore the community responsible for his death.

Often we forget that restorative justice isn’t just about restoring the one who was wronged; the one who committed the wrong is also need of restoration. In this case, the latter is the state of South Carolina.

Andrew Suderman 12-02-2013
 Cheriejoyful/Flickr/Creative Commons

Cheriejoyful/Flickr/Creative Commons

Next to biblical nativity stories, How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss is one of my favorite seasonal tales. We read it as a family every Christmas Eve.

While we typically view this vintage Dr. Seuss yarn as a reminder that there is more to Christmas than its trappings, it offers something unexpected too. It shares an example of restorative justice at work.

Margaret Benefiel 05-01-2013
Boston bombing suspects, via FBI

Boston bombing suspects, via FBI

When I got off the plane at O’Hare Airport in Chicago on my way home to Boston on April 15, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Televisions blaring everywhere showed my beloved city at her premier event of the year, the Boston Marathon. Everyone knows the rest of the story.

“Is this for real? How can this be?” I asked, unable at first to face the reality of what had occurred. Feelings of fear and anger followed quickly on the heels of the denial.

Leaders responded quickly: the mayor, the governor, the president. “Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice,” promised President Barack Obama.

What is justice? Vengeful words immediately spewed from talk shows and bloggers’ keyboards. “We must catch them alive and make them suffer as much as possible. That will pay them back for what they did,” spewed those who equate justice with revenge.

Of course, violence begets more violence. Gandhi put it succinctly: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Paul exhorted the Romans, “Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. . . Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. (Romans 12:17,19.)”

Liane Rozzell 01-22-2010
Imagine a prison where an inmate asks to stay an extra two weeks beyond his release date.
Gareth Higgins 09-30-2009
I'm reluctant to comment regarding film-maker Roman Polanski's arrest and the attempt to extradite him to the U.S.
Janna Hunter-Bowman 06-25-2009
One day last month, friends and family from around the world flooded me with messages alerting me to some suspicious activity in my yahoo e-mail account
Jarrod McKenna 05-29-2009
"The Bible knows nothing about peace without justice," said that great prophet of joyful restorative justice, Desmond Tutu, when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

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