Following the heels of the published success of drug courts, veterans courts have emerged. A recent CNN story highlighted success in California. I really appreciated that the Judge featured shared this:
” . . . we have a ethical and moral obligation to restore . . .”
SCVRJP has been collaborating with area drug courts and treatment courts. I shared a manual in April, 2010. My experience has been in seeing current and former drug court participants as volunteers in SCVRJP programming and services. Our first contact may have been because they were clients, and the impact was so powerful they became volunteers. My other experience is from working with the family members and victims of drug court participants. I am networked and woven into our community of prevention, intervention and treatment when it comes to crime, addiction and violence. I hear such powerful feedback in Circles about the impact of these courts and the restorative justice aspects. I want to highlight why Restorative Justice enhances this work.
1.) Capitalize on the 2nd chance. Problem solving courts are a prison alternative. You can guarantee public safety for as long as you lock a person up. You can not guarantee they will change, grow or amend themselves. Restorative Justice focuses on values and living in harmony in your community and relationships with others. Values in a relationship and focusing and living with positive values, enhance all of us. Restorative Justice is about respect, all RJ work is rooted in this. Teaching people to respect themselves, loved ones and the community – as well as to respect the relationship to courts and second chances.
2.) Provide prosocial peers/community connections. A volunteer group is a social network. People are healthier with more networks. People who have turned their lives around are valued in Restorative Justice. Where else can people use lessons from the past to help the future? Volunteers help others avoid pitfalls and negative consequences by sharing their stories in Circles. We have an accepting network in Restorative Justice, it evolves from the deep connections made in Circle. Since Circles serve all in attendance, the victims, bystander, family members and offenders are ALL helped, all supported and all healed. This creates a supportive environment that keeps people coming back around to volunteer or attend events, once you are in Circle you are part.
3.)Promotes healing. Restorative Justice is not psychotherapy, it is not addiction treatment it is not group therapy. Restorative Justice is an entirely different process for people to heal and connect. Many trauma goes unaddressed, unresolved. The symptoms are addressed but the root cause goes untreated. Using drugs to numb emotional pain causes further issues, addiction, breaking the law, breakdowns in relationships, etc, etc, etc. Bloom found the top 10 causes of death can be directly related to childhood trauma! What better time and place for people to work on healing then while also engaged in therapy and treatment. Restorative Justice, especially Circles provides people the safe space to explore these issues. Restorative Justice sharing is by invitation and the invitation to be vulnerable by means of honesty and openness provides deep insights for people.
4.)Community bonds. People connect in a way that people voluntarily go visit them at work or attend graduations. Imagine you hurt someone, badly. Then a person who was harmed by the same evil you caused aligns with you and becomes a support. You understand each other because you see different sides of the same coin. We have seen that someone else’s parents can influence offender deeply. Other offenders can transform the parents of an offender. Imagine seeing family members be less judgemental about addiction.
5.) Restorative Justice WORKS! In 2006 Umbriet published an article about the evidence of Restorative Justice. Restorative Justice the EVIDENCE, was a study of studies about RJ. Reaching beyond the evidence for offenders, Restorative Justice supports the community and victims. Restorative Justice heals people for all aspects of the issue, not just the criminal aspect. Restorative Justice addresses the social and emotional impact of crime. Restorative Justice provides dialogue that helps people process their lives.
Problem solving courts need not go it alone. Restorative Justice community programs exist all over the world, as the US is growing more and more problem solving courts, they may want to rely on the expertise and evidence established by Restorative Justice.