Colorado Victim Chooses Restorative Justice and Meets with Offender
This is an excellent article, well written with the right emphasis and explanation of restorative justice, telling the story of Sharletta Evans. She chose to meet the man who killed her young son. This was made possible after the passage of legislation carried by Representative Pete Lee.
The reporter points out that Lee’s intention is to open wide the doors to allow the usage of restorative justice not only with juvenile offenders but with adults as well. Restorative justice is being used around the globe with all types of offenders, adult and juvenile, but also with severely violent offenses and less violent (nonviolent) offenses. The U.S. needs to take note. Allowing crime victims to meet their offenders is a right that Restorative Justice International strongly supports. Why would we deny such meetings when 1) it increases the level of victim satisfacton after victims have been injured by crime and 2) it allows for direct offender accountability which often does not take place through the traditional justice system. Victim offender dialogue (or circles which allow more than the victim and offender to meet by also including family members of each to sit in on the meetings) is just one example of restorative justice at work but it is important. Through the discussions Restorative Justice International is having at linkedin many of us have concluded that victim offender dialogue is the “gold standard.” I agree with this.
In 1998 I directed the first intensive in-prison victim offender program in a Texas medium security prison. The excellent and eye-opening program was the brainchild of Dan Van Ness who heads Prison Fellowship International’s Centre for Justice and Reconciliation. I learned during this program that there were some 300-400 victims of crime put on a waiting list to have their chance to meet their offenders through a victim offender program set up by the state of Texas. Why the wait? Why not respond to the needs of crime victims while investing in restorative justice and enabling offenders to have a shot at real change. It’s time. How many more victims like Sharletta Evans in Colorado are waiting for their chance to meet their offenders face to face? Many are taking the need to be smart on crime. Restorative justice is exactly that.