As the need for alternative methods of dealing with problems becomes more evident, today's challenges ignite a growing interest in new approaches to conflict resolution through peaceful solutions that encourage community involvement. Restorative solutions can prevent conflict, drop-outs, truancy, crime, broken homes, school- and work-place tragedies, incarcerations and other community pain, when implemented early and consistently. Restorative solutions steer people away from situations where they are likely to fail and introduce them to more successful positions.
When one commits a crime, one incurs a debt to society. The judicial system is then charged with acting on the victim's behalf by determining blame and administering the punishment. It is based on an ancient Roman theory "to each his own," or, in modern lingo, "if you do the crime, you do the time." Pain, suffering, isolation, deprivation, and death are viewed as primary ways of "paying for" the wrong that was committed.
The punitive system is centralized with the offender. It considers crime to be an act against the state and focuses on punishing offenders without forcing them to face the impact of their crimes. It largely ignores the victim and the community that is hurt most by the crime. It leaves a huge credibility gap regarding the effectiveness of the policies in place.
Historically, the U.S. has implemented a variety of programs to improve upon the system. Hardly a stone was left unturned in our collective desire to create a better, more fair system. However, national statistics have sounded the alarm that current policies don't work ... our judicial process is broken. The U.S. has five percent of the world population, yet incarcerates 25 percent of the world prisoners. One in every 31 people is under some kind of correctional control. One in nine black, one in 28 Hispanic and one in 57 white children have an incarcerated parent, a majority serving time for non-violent offenses. It tears parents and children apart. These families are disempowered socially, economically and politically. Millions lose the right to vote and the ability to get a job and/or public benefits after prison terms are served.
While restorative justice does not take the place of the judicial system, it can be an effective alternative that is not soft on crime, yet offers real and lasting impact. Most people are imprisoned for non-violent crimes. Repetitive incarceration has become a powerful economic drain on taxpayers. It costs around $72,000 to house a juvenile each year compared to $7000 for a year's education. It costs around $19,000 to house an adult inmate. Prison budgets increase rapidly while school budgets suffer from lack of funds. Zero Tolerance Policies have helped create a "school to prison pipeline" that makes our schools function more like jails than institutions of learning. The economic impact has been devastating. We can do better!
For some time now, the American justice system has faced growing dissatisfaction without positive change. Citizens are disconnected. Victims are dissatisfied. Offenders suffer high rates of recidivism and judicial and incarceration costs for the process are burgeoning. Families are suffering. Schools are failing. The news is filled with violent acts against fellow citizens. This dissatisfaction has led to a growing interest in introducing new approaches to many levels of our community interaction: schools, justice system, business, churches, and organizations. Restorative Justice Initiatives are committed to supporting victims and communities in the healing process.
Many who visit our website are already familiar with the term "restorative justice. It's more than a word... an idea... or a process. It's a revolutionary theory of justice which challenged the fundamental assumptions in the dominant discourse about justice... with amazing results.
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