President Trump, criminal justice reform & restorative justice
President Trump, criminal justice reform and restorative justice
Lisa Rea, President, Restorative Justice International (RJI)
How do we respond to President Donald Trump in the U.S. if we are advocates and supporters of restorative justice? What impact will his presidency have on the U.S. and around the world in the criminal justice reform arena? Since the election of Donald Trump justice reform advocates are asking these questions.
Restorative Justice International (RJI) advocates for and supports the use of victims-driven and centered restorative justice principles to achieve systemic criminal justice reform in the U.S. and globally. RJI’s growing network and association is comprised of over 5500 members and affiliates who support restorative justice and are making it a reality today. As defined restorative justice is a set of principles that puts victims in the center of our justice systems in ways that 1) hold offenders accountable for their actions, and 2) seek to restore victims, and communities, in ways that allow healing after crime occurs. Restorative justice policies are used successfully in both the micro and macro of our justice systems. RJI has found broad and expanding support for restorative justice as nations struggle to find new ways to respond to crime without falling back to failed policies of the past.
As RJI considers the presidency of Donald Trump there are many issue areas related to justice of concern since the president has not been clear in his views or plans for the United States. Some areas include 1) policing, 2) private prisons, 3) victims’ rights and support, 4) torture, 5) heavy emphasis on mass incarceration, 5) hate crimes and 6) tough on crime rhetoric. RJI would view each subject area through a restorative justice lens. That means that the principles of restorative justice would be applied to individuals who have been victimized and to offenders who have been arrested or those accused of crime and held in custody. In the processing of offenders restorative justice principles would stress the humane and fair treatment of those in custody and all those in contact with the justice system. A justice system based on restorative justice principles would be transparent in its administration as it applies to its prisons and to law enforcement in communities.
RJI’s commitment is to a justice system that is balanced and just where restoration of crime victims is stressed and offenders are held accountable in ways that change lives and lead to lower crime rates. For the U.S. to improve the public safety of its citizens restorative justice must be central to the public policy positions pursued by the new administration. Since the U.S. is one of the foremost leaders in the world for incarcerating its citizenry, a sad fact, it is this country that must take the lead in driving justice reform in new ways. Restorative justice is taking off around the world because its focus is not solely on rates of incarceration but instead is focused on the needs of crime victims and communities. For the new administration to look beyond the usual response to crime and truly lead President Trump must focus on this vision.
While tough on crime rhetoric has been the typical response to crime for years affecting the actions of many who have held political power in the United States and around the world it is the smart and savvy leaders who conclude that holding offenders accountable for their actions is more important than holding offenders in custody. The needs of victims must come first. Both “smart on crime” and “right on crime” public policies are gaining popularity because these policies work, are cost effective and morally just as they require individual accountability. The smart leader studies the evidence and concludes that a victims-centered and victims-driven response to crime is the right position for our justice systems.
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(Use with permission from RJI. 2.13.17)