by Molly Rowan Leach
I will be hosting Restorative Justice on the Rise as a weekly feature during the Summer of Peace telesummit, and welcome you into this important dialogue space. I'd like to share my experiences of Restorative justice and a bit about the birth of the live telecouncil series that started two years ago called Restorative Justice on The Rise".
Restorative Justice is much more than a systemic movement that is currently rising quickly in our Western World. It is a way of being, a way of seeing, and has been practiced by our Indigenous and many global cultures and committed citizens on the peripheries of their communities for both ancient and recent times. It calls upon the deepest and most unspoken understandings we carry with us as part of our human package—those places in our hearts that just know—that just know what is good to share and be and do--and when things go awry, how to rebalance and make right what has been wronged. We are on the brink of an entire shift in seeing and being with ourselves, with one another, and in addressing crime and conflict from a new lens. This lens of Restorative Justice does not mean you have to forgive. It doesn’t force anyone to do anything. It doesn’t make communities unsafe. It doesn’t go light on those who’ve done wrong. In fact, it brings a whole new level of power to the game—one of truth telling, making real and facing things openly, and providing the conditions of possible and eventual healing and even rebuilding of relationships on every level of our culture.
In my own heart and human experience is a very personal understanding of how things can go very awry even after the initial wrongdoing, and that is why I’ve devoted my life to Restorative Justice. My mother is in prison, and has been for almost 15 years, for a crime she committed. This has been a heart breaking and life changing experience. Through this personal initiation, I have been catapulted into looking closely at the criminal justice system and ways of addressing crime--but further than that--how to bring the humanity back in when a crime occurs. I have been exploring how to safely bridge the many individuals and second-hand recipients whom are irrevocably affected when crime happens. I have been expecting, perhaps audaciously, that we can do much better than we have ever done before as a human community to tend space together while retaining the important values we all share of community, safety, accountability, and honoring and protecting each other's natural process in this.
What I have witnessed in my family and other people’s lives is the criminal system’s inability for victims to not feel heard, seen, or acknowledged for the pain that was caused them; or, for perpetrators to apologize in a meaningful way to the victims for their crimes. I have seen communities in shambles and divisiveness that is fueled by a media further supporting the stigmatization of ‘offenders’ and polarizing all involved in what almost seems to be an outright wish to keep things unaddressed, unhealed, and devastated. I’ve seen families destroyed or near destroyed in their inability to address together what pain they feel and how they can support each other in honoring everyone’s due process. Ultimately, I have witnessed a system full of double-speak about what is said to be the intention and the actual result and format of day to day operations. I have witnessed and been part of two decades worth of the above, from the individual to the systemic and back, and the utter failure of the whole and parts to provide alternates to the fatal endgame still being engaged.
And yet, as we all know on a root level, when it is darkest, then follows the rise of the sun. And that is just what is occurring, and has occurred over decades and beyond in the US and worldwide, to build to this pivotal moment.
Restorative Justice on The Rise was birthed two years ago as a way of leveraging the power of virtual technology—in this case, telecouncil and webcasting platforms—to bring together a global constituency of people interested in and often times very much invested in serving the various branches of this field. We have live conversations with extraordinary Pioneers in the field and at this writing have over 70 archives in our library, all of which are free to the global public. We engage with Corrections officials, Judges, Mediators, Attorneys, Public Defenders, Victim Advocates, Grassroots Organizations, and more. We’ve talked with the equally important voices of Dr. Michelle Alexander, Dr. Johan Galtung, Howard Zehr, Kay Pranis, Libby Hoffman, Dominic Barter, Lois DeMott, Lauren Abramson, Kim Workman, Lynette Parker and so many others.
The key here is the live and open dialogue, and the continued reliability of the forum every week, which is offering a place for education, connection, resources, and of course, important dialogue. Beyond that we are building a coalition and providing additional advocacy campaigns surrounding legislation at the local/state levels and beyond.
To come full circle, Restorative Justice is a way of practicing in our own daily lives, and begins with a willingness to engage a beginner’s mind of sorts, while also remembering the immense knowledge base we each carry within us as a litmus of how to truly and deeply engage conflict from a space of response and compassion, accountability and collaboration, instead of from fear and reaction, divisiveness and painful retribution. We are truly at a juncture in our world, in our individual lives, where individuals and communities are calling for Restorative Justice more than ever, and where Law Enforcement and Corrections officials are joining forces with the latter to build this giant wave of systemic change, one person, one jaw-dropping statistic that proves Restorative Justice's weight, at a time.
The Peace Alliance is now the primary sponsoring partner of Restorative Justice on the Rise, along with individual donations. To learn more about Restorative Justice on the Rise, click here.
I so look forward to hearing from you during the Summer of Peace telesummit and feel free to contact me directly with any comments, questions or feedback at email@example.com
Molly Rowan Leach
PS: You may be interested in reading my Huffington Post article on American Justice: for Profit Prisons or Truth (click here)
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This article appears in:
2013 Catalyst - Issue 10