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Randy Gage —

The article is obviously written by an articulate author with a thorough understanding of the contentious issues related to engaging in restorative justice work. I try to side-step (successfully sometimes, I hope) the somewhat artificial distinction between ‘sides’, (viz., victim v. perpetrator). The focus then becomes resolution of the question, (what is right in this case?), rather than “who is right?” By default, the former question can result in only one obvious answer. The aggrieved party is as conspicuous as is the offending party. I’ve worked with plenty of people for the past 20+ years who unfortunately have alternately occupied both positions, (i.e., victim-perpetrator, right-wrong, what ever you like) over time. Ad hominen thoughts and attitudes contain an inherent drive toward restricting the focus to the criminal incident at hand, (i.e., which may have lasted only seconds or minutes in some cases). However, the aftermath of a judicial disposition affords ample time to examine the precipitants which led to a particular incident. When the ‘smoke’ clears, the opportunity to investigate and fairly accurately theorize about the factors ultimately resulting in the conflict avails itself. So, what are we learning after umpty-nine such investigations? Time and time and time again, early intervention in the offender’s maladaptive lifestyle, home environment, health, and mental health status, academic functioning, psychosocial functioning, etc., would have likely prevented any or many future criminal incidents. In this respect, the ‘offender’ may be regarded as having been a ‘victim’ in the past (perhaps innumerable times) in the absence of sufficient advocacy, intervention or any concern. Once again, it appears that the primary issue here is sufficient focus. When does sufficient focus occur? All too often, it occurs AFTER someone has been aggrieved. In this respect, the prevailing attitude of policy-makers toward citizens seems to be one in which their real concern for overall public safety and justice is highly questionable at best. If you profess to care about “the people” and you hold criminal activity in contempt, why then don’t you support effective and efficient activities and functions which could prevent may crimes from occurring in the first place. What is right in a free society? A persisting tepid nod to, or in some cases a Laissez Faire approach to attempts at prevention seems to be costing us all an incalculable amount of money. Where do want to place our focus? What is right? You could argue that this is, in fact, a multi-sided issue. Or better yet, a no-sided issue. That is until someone gets shot, robbed, sexually assaulted, etc.