The value of viewing people in the context of their relationships.

I am rereading Restorative Justice Transforming SocietiesrestorativejusticeI am teaching from this book, the University of Wisconsin River Falls, Special Topics course Intro to Restorative Justice.  As I read the book again, from just a year ago, I’ve been suprised at what I find interesting, or have more experience with that creates these “a-ha’s” for me.

I appreciate the first essays, a community member speaking about Maori justice, an offender and a prosecutor.  I am really interested in seeing how our class discussion goes.  I did a take home quiz to make sure people would be prepared to cover the first 40 pages.

One of the concepts that I missed before, was the importance of seeing offenders in context of their relationships.  On page 29 Rupert Ross makes the point of how this helps victims.  To see the offender also lives with in human relationships helps victims see the offender as a “human being, not a creature of nightmare”.

He makes the point that having the offenders family and friend is Circle is what brings these benefits. 

On more than one occassion I have watched and heard victims responding to the parents attendance at a restorative justice session.  For some reason we default to the idea, if juvenile crime occurs, there must be a lack of parenting.

Parents of juvenile who commit crimes know this.  There is a great deal of shame when your kid breaks the law.  That is why it is so important to have parents at the session.  They explain how they felt when they realized what happened.  The juveniles get to see what impact their behavior had on their own parents, but the parents of their peers.

I got to observe a very polite young lady.  She was a young guest and she was picking up dishes after the meal.  I remembered how well I would behave at someone elses house.  My Mom didn’t like it much that I would pitch in and offer to help in front of company or at someone elses.  The power of what my Aunt or my friends parents thought of me mattered.

When we do restorative justice, we help heal and mend the offenders relationship to his parents, parents in his community and most importantly with the victim.

Restorative Jusitce can turn the whole story around.

Story A:  I did this bad thing.  I am a bad person.

Story B:  I made a mistake.  I can do better.

Victim participation in Restorative Justice is so valuable, so important.  I think the victims are unsung, everyday hero’s.  They seek Restorative Justice for a variety or reasons.  The context of their relationship – to the crime and the the offender is impacted with Restorative Justice.

Victim stories:

Story A:  I was harmed.  bastards.

Story B: I was harmed.  I feel ok.

There is work we can do internally.  You can forgive someone and that is all inner work.  You feel the benefit and the other person doesn’t even know it happened.   Yet having a discussion with them.  Speaking your peace, getting and giving listening are powerful acts when responding to harm.

I am thankful I get to facilitate and share in these experiences.  Next time you feel conflict, trying seeing that person in context of their relationships.  Think about the importance of your own.