I just watched an episode of Wyatt Cenac’s HBO show “Problem Areas”. My wife had told me she had watched it earlier and thought I would like it since it was about the concept of restorative justice. I had never heard of Wyatt Cenac, his show, or restorative justice, but I am glad I watched the show.
Here’s an overview of restorative justice from Wikipedia:
Restorative justice is an approach to justice in which the response to a crime is to organize a mediation between the victim(s) and the offender(s), and sometimes with representatives of the wider community. The goal is to negotiate for the offender(s) to deliver a restitution to the victim(s), to the satisfaction of all participants.
A restorative justice program aims to get offenders to take responsibility for their actions, to understand the harm they have caused, to give them an opportunity to redeem themselves and to discourage them from committing further harm. For victims, its goal is to give them an active role in the process. Restorative justice is founded on an alternative theory to the traditional methods of justice, which often focus on retribution. However, restorative justice programs can complement traditional methods.
Academic assessment of restorative justice is positive. Most studies suggest it makes offenders less likely to reoffend. A 2007 study also found that it had highest rate of victim satisfaction and offender accountability of any method of justice.
That sounds like a win-win-win. Isn’t that what we want, or at least should want, from criminal JUSTICE? The offender takes accountability for his or her actions, is less likely to commit a crime in the future, and the victim is satisfied with how justice was delivered.
It was during the TV show that one of the speakers used the quote shown at the top of this post. The quote is from Frederick Douglass, and it is one I had never heard before.
However, it doesn’t take too long to realize how powerful the quote is, and how true it is.
Offering restorative justice to our youngest offenders would seem to offer the greatest bang for our justice buck.
Here is a short YouTube video from Sujatha Baliga, an advocate for restorative justice. She is the same woman featured in the TV news story I watched tonight. She tells a touching story of restorative justice in action.
This is a great example of the potential benefits of restorative justice.
I hope I start to see more of this approach to justice, particularly when dealing with youth crime.
The potential benefits to society are immeasurable; since without justice, there can be no peace.