Sour Grapes and Saddle Sores
To be a Just People
There are needs for changes in the justice system. Crime prevention is an issue that is developing in many places. Concerned people gather in troubled neighborhoods in order to present a calming presence. This indicates an effort to present justice as other than the practice of criminal justice.
The Justice system today deals primarily with crime and abuses within public life. The Justice system in its common form considers all acts as crime against the state, and the courts are full of cases where laws have been broken. In this position, penalties, fines and jail sentences are handed down. There is another side to Justice. Pam Adams wrote in the Peoria Journal Star: "Restorative justice is, and requires, a different way of thinking. Law and order offers one hard line of thought, restorative justice offers multiple strands, all aiming toward forgiveness on the victimâ€™s part, accountability on the offenderâ€™s part, and an attempt at healing on all parts." Peoria Journal Star, June, 2008
This side of the law places its purpose on the violations and hurts. We talk about how a criminal needs to be put in jail. We seem to think that such acts solve the need, protects the community, and heals the hurts of the victim. The old west used to hang a criminal on the spot or shoot the person. We still punish the crime, but we do not allow immediate action.
Restorative justice places its concern on the victim. This takes time because the victim has needs such as personal feelings in the matter, validation of their position, restitution, listening, safety, and support. This is so because simply punishing the crime and finding evidence that the deed was done is not enough. We cannot leave the victimâ€™s life, nor the life of the community behind as being resolved and relieved.
In order to practice restorative justice, the offender needs to confess to the hurtful act and offer accountability. This is a sharp difference from innocent until proven guilty. Forgiveness on the part of the victim is difficult because there is pain, anger and a whole host of feelings. The involvement of the community includes the law enforcement body as well as other concerned persons. The court system and its judges are still necessary but, the approach is different.
In order to be a just society we need to separate our courts and the judges away from the rest of our governing bodies. The selection of judges needs to be away from politics. These days we elect the persons for the positions of judges. Candidates who seek a position are required to "run" for office. A system becomes essential that selects persons who by experience and training would hold the position of judgeship rather than attain the office by reason of a popular vote that represents a minority of persons.
It is my conviction that communities can bring restorative justice into being. Concern for both the victim and the offender from community groups and persons in ways that help and heal are necessary. We should not expect law enforcement people to be alone in bringing in change. The attitude must center on the humanity of everyone. Justice ought to carry with it the same feeling as Charity does in that it is very public. What this means that persons in jails need the same recognition of worth as the poor. Both carry a name and and a value.
Addenda Consulted with States Attorney, Jim Owens. He related that Restorative Justice efforts ares coming along. The State of Minnesota is making an effort to apply it to cases. I plan to look into this and report in this column so that ordinary citizens can learn how it applies. Thank you, Sir.
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