Restorative Justice: Is it the end all be all?

By: Ariana Falco

Dealing with Restorative Justice.

Today’s discussion was provided by Julie Shackford-Bradley. We discussed the topic of Restorative Justice and Peacebuilding circles. We began the day in a circle and all wrote down one word/character trait that we would like to be applied to the discussion. I chose to add the word, open minded. I chose this word because I believe it is necessary to have an open mind when having a discussion with anyone, let alone multiple people from different backgrounds/origins. I believe this step was nice to ground us all before diving into a deep conversation.

After, we began the discussion about restorative justice and how it works and its functionality. I have some background in RJ from being a volunteer community representative at CURJ. That being said, hearing a different perspective on RJ was very interesting. I have only seen RJ at a local level between students on campus, never on a large scale. In my experience, RJ has worked and seems to be a great alternative to criminal punishment. There is some sense of connection and fulfillment through RJ when the offenders are able to see how their actions have affected people and the surrounding community. This being said, I have seen it work on a small scale level through student conduct, I don’t believe it works outside of that. 

Thinking about RJ on a broader perspective within our criminal justice system, I find it hard to see it working. I am speaking from a US perspective and cannot speak on behalf of other countries. Our current criminal justice system is so terribly broken that I believe it would take more than RJ to fix it. I do believe RJ may be a step in the right direction but not the end all be all. I found it frustrating to try to picture large scale situations such as murder or rape and using RJ as a means to help. Facing the person who did the crime in a calm manner would take a lot of humility and generally after such trauma, it takes time to heal. This is the piece that I struggle with when it comes to a wide scale use of RJ. I had discussions with some classmates from my point of view on the matter and hearing their perspectives were also interesting. Many of them thought that this idea was so out of reach, and if I were to have not worked with it first hand, I would agree. 

Overall I think the presentation was really informative and created a stimulating conversation. I think it is good to discuss the options to help with our criminal justice system and even if they don’t always work it is good to learn and stay curious about the topic. I do believe that RJ works in student conduct cases but outside of that I still need to be convinced.

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