Saturday, October 23, 2010

Restorative justice in Oakland-another view.

A friend of mine has taken restorative justice training in Oakland, California-a city so infested with criminals of every stripe that people are willing to try any remedy no matter how sketchy.

Here's the response I might have made, had I the disrespect to embarrass her on facebook. I like her a lot better than that.

I was trained as a mediator by the Iowa Mediation Service and I have also observed the practice of restorative justice in action. There are legal rights and responsibilities afoot that I am painfully aware of because of my training in my day job that many people I trained with, being drawn from the clergy and the field of social work are only dimly aware of.

I have defended and prosecuted a number of people in the 17 years I have had a law license. I have also seen compulsory mediation used to bludgeon parties into a settlement, most often one that strips women of their legal rights in dissolution of marriage proceedings-because of the dimly perceived set of legal rights and responsibilities I mentioned.

In the main, we do not throw away lives involved in criminality of a violent kind-they do it to themselves, just as a reasonably intelligent mouse who knows the dangers of the mousetrap because he's heard of it from other mice who may have survived nevertheless makes a run at the cheese on the pan. Some mice go in for bravado and some use finesse and they both manage to pull it off a few times which gives them the mistaken notion that they can repeat the process indefinitely. By the time the mice face the cat, they've already compiled a body of experience and folklore that makes the entire reclamation project problematic-they've already succeeded and think they can do it again if they con the rest of us-which they also know that they can do.

People who practice the criminal arts, in the main, are good examples of Jeremy Bentham's principle in action-they'll sacrifice anything and anyone for pleasure and they'll do anything and everything, no matter how dishonest, to avoid punishment. That means they'll lie to you, to me, to their attorneys and counselors, their parents if they've got em, and always to the cops whose job it is to protect saps like you and me from people like them.

A case we heard about took place in Texas. A man had assaulted and murdered a woman, he was convicted and sentenced to prison, and a restorative justice proceeding was instituted, conducted by a social worker. As part of that, the murderer had to describe in detail what he'd done to the victim's father.
And so he did but it occurred to the father of the victim that the criminal was describing not the murder of his daughter, but the murder of another woman entirely. The proceeding had been videotaped, and that later formed part of the evidence that solved a cold case because the murderer was so dismissive of the rest of us-no matter how well meaning- that he couldn't even bother to keep his victims straight.


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