By Joseph Hayashi
Today, I think, was probably the hardest day of the whole program so far. It wasn’t hard on an academic level, but more on an emotional level. Seeing the conditions of the prison, this week, was difficult, but hearing the Cheryl Ward-Kaiser’s story was so much harder. Just hearing what she had to go through and what happened to her was so hard to hear, there were many times when I wanted to get up and walk out but I knew I couldn’t do that. I wanted to respect her willingness to tell us her story by staying in the room the whole time.
I am amazed by the fortitude and strength that Cheryl has but I think the thing that I have the most respect for is her ability to forgive the people that hurt her and her family. I think most people wouldn’t be able to do that, and to meet someone that is able to do is awe inspiring. I was amazed about how much effort she put into helping her offenders heal and get through system after everything that happened to her. I think what she is doing is by far one of the hardest things to do.
While I am happy to hear her story and want to believe that this is a perfect example on why restorative justice is necessary and the answer to all out problems, I just can’t do it. I am still a believer that transitional justice will help in some situations and will be an improvement on what we have now, I don’t think it will work in every situation that happens. And while it was good to see that Cheryl was able to forgive right away, it didn’t seem like everyone involved was able to. Also, I am still afraid that people may take advantage of the restorative justice system and get away with something when they shouldn’t.
The thing I do think needs to change though is the fact that we need to bring in more input from the victim on what happens in the sentencing process. Hearing that Cheryl was not allowed to be in the courtroom for that part of the process was shocking. It amazed me that we wouldn’t take more input from the people that were most hurt from the crime. We definitely still need to work on our system and incorporate restorative justice as much as possible into our current system but it ways that make sense and that take the victim’s views/feelings more into account.