Restorative Justice in North America

Restorative Justice Practices of Native American, First Nation and Other Indigenous People of North America

This two-part paper written by Laura Mirsky, the Assistant Director of Communications & Technology at the International Institute for Restorative Practices, includes interviews with indigenous people from various tribes in North America who have experience with restorative justice practices. It is important to note that, while restorative justice as a whole “probably evolved separately” from the practices of the Navajo, this paper leans in favor of giving indigenous groups credit for these practices. This source sheds light on the restorative practices of indigenous people and displays how restorative justice has developed differently in each community. Part One explains how “healing is more important than punishment.” Robert Yazzie, a Navajo mediator, mentions that “America responds to crime after the fact,” as opposed to the Navajo belief that restorative practices can be used to prevent crime. In Part Two, Mirsky explains how restorative justice works effectively among juveniles. In some cases, problematic offenders choose the program as an easy way out and as an alternative to punishment, but ultimately become more open to the process and apologize.

Mirsky, Laura. “Restorative Justice Practices of Native American, First Nation, and Other Indigenous People of North America: Part One.” Restorative Practices EForum. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: International Institute for Restorative Practices, 27 April 2004. Web. July 2014. <http://www.iirp.edu/iirpWebsites/web/uploads/article_pdfs/natjust1.pdf>.

Mirsky, Laura. “Restorative Justice Practices of Native American, First Nation, and Other Indigenous People of North America: Part Two.” Restorative Practices EForum. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: International Institute for Restorative Practices, 26 May 2004. Web. July 2014. <http://www.iirp.edu/iirpWebsites/web/uploads/article_pdfs/natjust2.pdf>.

 

Opening Up, Students Transform a Vicious Circle

Patricia Leigh Brown discusses the effects of restorative justice on high school students. Her article focuses specifically on Oakland, California, where twenty-one schools are incorporating restorative justice into their own justice systems. She introduces Damon Smith, who has been suspended from his school more than fifteen times. Although it was a slow process, he was able to improve his academic scores. He explained to Brown that many students are unable to recover from missing school after a suspension and grow more angry. With the restorative justice workshops the school offers, Smith was able to use his words instead of resorting to violence. Damon Smith’s story serves as a testament to the effectiveness of the program that has resonated deeply with the youth of Oakland. However, Brown mentions that the schools’ restorative justice programs have had limited success with issue of bullying. This is likely because an important aspect of restorative justice is the offender admitting fault, which does not always occur in cases regarding bullying. Therefore, it is important to remember that restorative justice does not currently work in all situations, nevertheless the process is still evolving.

Brown, Patricia Leigh. “Opening Up, Students Transform a Vicious Circle.” The New York Times. New York, 3 April 2013. Web. 2 July 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/04/education/restorative-justice-programs-take-root-in-schools.html?_r=1&>.

 

Toward a restorative Detroit: Transforming relationships in the Motor City

In this 2014 piece, Laura Mirsky covers the current objectives of restorative justice organizations in Detroit, Michigan. She highlights Black Family Development, Inc. (BFDI), a group that aims “to strengthen the lives of children by supporting safe homes and communities” in the Metropolitan Detroit area. Mirsky spoke with Alice Thompson, the CEO of BFDI, concerning BFDI’s explorations of restorative justice at a state level. Thompson and her colleagues pushed for aid from the state, so that their group could focus on community conversation in schools as a starting point for their initiative. Thompson sees restorative justice as “strategies to improve public safety by engaging community to develop relationships.” By utilizing conversation to develop relationships, BFDI has established initiatives throughout the city, starting with after school programs. These programs show that restorative justice can work with minors and serve as a basis for starting the conversation with adults.

Mirsky, Laura. “Toward a restorative Detroit: Transforming relationships in the Motor City.” Restorative Works. Restorative Practices Foundation, 13 January 2014. Web. July 2014. <http://restorativeworks.net/2014/01/toward-restorative-detroit-transforming-relationships-motor-city>.

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