Tag Archives: restorative justice

Restorative Justice Becomes Law

New legislation happened quietly this year in Washington that affects the juvenile justice system. I knew it was happening, but the legislators I work with wanted to keep it quiet. Sometimes, when a light shines on legislation, people stop doing the right thing and do what they think is politically correct to be re-elected.

The new legislation can be found here: http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2015-16/Pdf/Bills/House%20Passed%20Legislature/2906-S.PL.pdf

The most important part of the legislation may be the addition of restorative justice as an alternative to secure detention:

“Community-based rehabilitation” means one or more of the following: Employment; attendance of information classes; literacy classes; counseling, outpatient substance abuse treatment programs, outpatient mental health programs, anger management classes, education or outpatient treatment programs to prevent animal cruelty, or other services including, when appropriate, restorative justice programs; or attendance at school or other educational programs appropriate for the juvenile as determined by the school district.”

Previously, restorative justice had restricted access. This opens it up for local municipalities to make their own judgment regarding what is good rehabilitation. It also defines restorative justice:

“Restorative justice” means practices, policies, and programs informed by and sensitive to the needs of crime victims that are designed to encourage offenders to accept responsibility for repairing the harm caused by their offense by providing safe and supportive opportunities for voluntary participation and communication between the victim, the offender, their families, and relevant community members.”

This is a big deal. Restorative justice is now codified in Washington state law!

We owe a great deal of thanks to Rep. Roger Goodman for being a tireless advocate of restorative justice. You can send a note of thanks via his assistant at: Derek.Zable@leg.wa.gov

Woohoo!!

What if the Death Penalty was No More

I just finished reading an article at Huffington Post titled, “What Kind of People Might We Become if We Stopped Killing Killers?” by Rita Nakashima Brock.

In the article she speaks to making decisions knowing that whomever is sentenced will definitely be returned to society. What would we do differently if we KNOW that a killer will be living in our midst again? We can no longer say, “he’s locked away for good, throw away the key!” We must refocus our efforts on making it safe for us to be around the incarcerated, not by building more walls, but by changing the person who did such a horrible act.

How do you change the person? How do we change ourselves to have the heart to change this person? How do we change our community so that it will build stepping-stones of success rather than throwing stones of condemnation?

If you KNEW that the Green River killer would be returned to the community in 25 years, what would your response to him be? Would you stand by and throw stones? Throw up your hands in despair? Or would you begin the work of creating a compassionate heart within this killer’s chest? Of creating an accountability process for his eventual return to society?

What if you are with a child who has not crossed the line to murderer, but has committed enough crime to be incarcerated for a lengthy period? And that child has exhibited no emotions or regret? We know that child will be returned to society without fail. And yet we continue to cut funding for counselors, probation officers, parole officers, therapists, and education. Will this child get the treatment needed to create success? Recidivism rates say no.

Would you do anything differently if you knew every person in prison would be returning to your neighborhood?