Updated: Jul 1
Restorative justice is a system of criminal justice which focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large.
Two examples of Restorative justice in America are community service and victim assistance. Often what these two examples lack are victim and offender mediation and the victim rights advocates. I certainly can appreciate the opportunity for an offender to participate in community service, but if there is no real acknowledgment of wrongdoing with no remorse or sadness for the act, then there is no real restoration that takes place. However, if the offender does acknowledge his or her wrongdoings with remorse and regret for the crime that has been committed then there is hope for real restorative justice. The offender must be willing to take real steps in providing the victim or the victim's family and community to express "I'm sorry for the crime I committed". I do realize to be sorry is not enough, especially if the crime involved the death of a person. But to be sorry is a beginning step.
Victims and victim's families are often left to heal on their own. The Victim's unit in police departments across the nation is lacking when it comes to some fundamental resources, like empathy, sympathy, care, and concern. I do believe that police departments are beginning to do a better job in this area. There may be available now, websites, flyers, and brochures for families who have been victimized that give information on financial resources as well as emotional support for families.
A very high-profile case that involved a famous football player who was accused of killing his wife, was set free. He had a high-profile, well-paid legal team that was able to convince the jury and many in our country of his innocence. His attorney became famous, many thought he was an expert in the field of criminal justice and so was his legal team. However, the football player was arrogant, and flamboyant, with no real remorse for the death of his wife. He was later jailed for another offense. He even wrote a book, If I did it; confessions of the killer. There was never any public apology, no public confession of his crimes, no real connection with the victim's family or community to admit guilt or make amends to the community.
Too often those with or without money have NO REAL RESTORATIVE JUSTICE pathway. There is no remorse or apology made. There is no opportunity for the victim's family to begin to heal, just by hearing the words, I'm sorry. No training, no trauma acknowledgment or healing. Just unaddressed pain, hurt and disappointment, especially when the cases are not solved and love ones are killed.
In Luke 19: 1-10 we see an unusual opportunity for restorative justice come to light. It was unexpected by those in the community. There were no protocols in place to bring forth restorative justice. There was a sycamore tree, a thief, the community members, and Jesus, the Justice Genius.
The story unfolds with Jesus entering into Jericho. There is a great multitude following him because he is known for healing the sick and feeding the hungry. Zacchaeus, a short rich man, chief tax collector hears and crowds and knows Jesus is in his neighborhood. However, there is a problem. Zacchaeus is short and cannot see Jesus. So he climbs a sycamore tree so he can see Jesus. It's amazing that Jesus looked up and said to him, "Hurry down, Zacchaeus, because I must stay in your house today". The crowd went crazy because they knew Zacchaeus, was a thief and not worthy to have Jesus in his home. Immediately Zacchaeus says these words, I promise to give half of my belongings to the poor and I will pay back four (4) times that which I cheated or stole from people.
This my friend is "true restorative justice"! Zacchaeus acknowledged he would give to the poor, and he was willing to pay back four times more than he had stolen from people. That is community service, victims' rights, and more!!! How did the Justice Genius do that? He saw the man who was willing to climb a tree to see him. He called him out, and offered to be in his home. What a unique justice tactic that is not in the law books.
Zacchaeus must have in his heart, regretted what he had become and what he had done to others. He could have just had dinner with Jesus and kept all of his money, but something about the love of Jesus for guilty got to him. He gave it up. He gave his money, his time, and his heart was changed to be better and to do better.
I recently read of a program called the "Sycamore Tree Project." This is a true Restorative Justice Program that allows unrelated victims and offenders to talk and make amends. There is training, empathy, sincerity, and remorse while both sides heal. Check out the website: http://restorativejustice.org/we-do/sycamore-tree-project/#sthash.FVeAD7pr.dpbs.