The speaker at our March community gathering, Michele Braley, discussed “restorative justice,” which brings together offenders, victims, and the community to find ways to repair the injuries of crimes. She contrasted this approach to the “retributive process” used in the Western legal system, whereby the state assigns punishment “to fit the crime.”
Braley is program director for Seward Longfellow Restorative Justice, which operates a restorative-justice program for youth in South Minneapolis. She said the approach has roots in aboriginal justice, faith communities, and dispute-resolution techniques involving mediation.
Restorative justice gives victims a voice in deciding how to deal with the impact of a crime. Many want above all to ensure that the offender does not hurt anyone else, and they are able to help craft a “restorative agreement,” she said.
The police and county attorney recommend candidates for restorative justice, with voluntary participation by the victim. Braley said one challenge is to ensure this approach does not perpetuate racial disparities, for example by giving preference to white kids.