Examples of successful community-led restorative justice?
December 14, 2019 8:09 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for example, both from the US and elsewhere, of successful (meaning 'actually implemented and not just talked about') restorative justice approaches to instances of direct interpersonal violence (as opposed to explicitly political violence), specifically with a view toward taking these approaches out of the twittersphere/opinion pages of lefty publications and putting them into practice in the real world. See below the fold for details.

In the wake of the death of a Barnard student in NY, several of my friends in the area have been talking a lot about responses to this event that aren't "more police, more arrests", which is (stunner) the default response from the city. These conversations have mainly focused on community-led restorative justice and increased involvement from the Columbia community (the Columbia campus abuts Morningside park, and their real-estate acquisition in the past few years has been a disruptive force for Harlem residents).

However, I can't actually call to mind an instance of restorative justice in practice as a response to this kind of event, even though I know that there are examples. Neither can any of the very well-meaning, well-educated, social-justice-oriented New Yorkers I have spoken with about it. This is a problem. It's to have any kind of credible or productive conversation about how communities and activists can respond without some kind of understanding of how communities and activists have responded in the past, how those efforts have played out, and how to make future efforts successful. Do you have any reading recommendations?
posted by cirgue to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Ann Grosmaire's mother has discussed how they used restorative justice when Ann's boyfriend murdered Ann. (Content warning for descriptions of murder and domestic violence.) Looking up the parents (Kate & Andy Grosmaire) may lead you to other examples or resources.
posted by cdefgfeadgagfe at 9:47 AM on December 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think if none of you have any experience with this then you shouldn't be leading this conversation personally. I also think you do not understand the basis of restorative justice which is a direct mediated conversation between victims and offenders, with offenders taking personal responsibility to repair the harm to the victim and to the community. It assumes both offender and victim are community members and is based on old methods of justice when people lived in small villages and had to put up with each other no matter what. I see no reason here for the victims family to buy into that as they are not part of the same community and are unlikely to value the community over redress as they will not be able to benefit from nor witness any amends made by the offenders. I also don't see a role for your and your friends. No one can force anyone to participate and it's not an open public process usually.

Secondly, whatever happens between the universities, the police and the neighborhood in the wake of this isn't likely to meet the criteria of restorative justice because you can't just sub in institutions for people. I think you are looking for a different model of community engagement here.

But there are some US programs you can look into. Alaska has the largest restorative justice program in the country, jury is out on the results. Navajo Nation has a well regarded program too which has been adapted by the State of New Mexico for juvenile crime. And of course, outside the US it's far more common.

My education on this is mostly related to a type of property crime. It seems well suited to that or to dealing with less serious juvenile crime. I can tell you that after learning more about this process I would not, as a woman, willingly agree to this kind of mediation if I were a victim of a violent crime. Take from that what you will.
posted by fshgrl at 1:00 PM on December 14, 2019 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Ever After: Stories of Violence, Accountability, and Healing is a video series sharing the stories of violent crime survivors and offenders that I found powerful when I attended a viewing of the screening livestream last year.

The Brooklyn-based organization that created the video series, Common Justice, operates "the first alternative-to-incarceration and victim-service program in the United States that focuses on violent felonies in the adult courts". According to their website, diversion into their program happens only if survivors of the crime consent to it.

In searching for the film link, I also found this extensive set of resources compiled by Restorative Justice NYC.

I don't think I have either the right lived experience or current area expertise to talk myself about the best answers to how to create a deeper healing and more preventative justice than the highly problematic current state of the system. But I do think it's an important conversation for our society to have, honoring and centering the voices of people most affected.
posted by beryllium at 2:06 PM on December 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

Canada has had restorative justice for 40 years. It is largely used in the Indigenous community, and often times used in parallel with the traditional justice system. It is also a buzzword that was been highly misused (most reports I see out of the US labeled “restorative justice” are not even close to what restorative justice *is*). It is also used in the traditional justice system, through such mechanisms like sexual assault survivors have legal standing and their own lawyer in criminal trials (if they so wish).

Done well, with appropriate resources and a victim/community focus and a truly contrite offender, it is MUCH more impactful than traditional justice.

Just skimming the headlines of the case you are talking about, I am not sure ithe resources I am able to provide would be appproprite in the situation you are facing. At 13 years old the Canadian Justice system (both traditional and restorative) would process the offender VERY differently than the US would. We may not have any models that would be useful for you. Here are some options for you to explore though: Peacebuilders, L’Alternative Youth Restorative Action Project, Community Justice Societyt
posted by saucysault at 2:20 PM on December 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

And a couple of articles that have more leads for you to follow.
posted by saucysault at 2:34 PM on December 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

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