The Restorative Justice Project of GaNVC

by Cynthia Moe

Exploration

The Restorative Justice Project of GaNVC is exploring how NVC-based Restorative Justice (RJ) tools can support restoration of balance between individuals and within communities who have experienced harm. RJ can provide healing within various types of communities including schools, civic organizations, housing groups, businesses and families.

If you would enjoy joining in this exploration and in the offering of RJ educational opportunities in our Metro area, please contact us at connect at GaNVC.org to inform of your interest.

Discussion

NVC trainer Dominic Barter defines a Restorative System as, “an ongoing and utilized agreement between members of a community, that they come together to collectively respond to acts which impact their well-being and that of their community through restorative practice.”

The Restorative Circles that he facilitates in collaboration with judges within Brazil’s justice system, “offer ways for individuals and communities to establish connection, discover meaning and recover power on profound levels.” Dominic reports that the Circles, “create a forum for reaching agreements that help sustain effective and nurturing relationships both personally and within society.”

The Circles, “bring the profoundly open-hearted clarity and tangible power-sharing dynamics of Nonviolent Communication to restorative practices, which in recent decades have rediscovered and adapted ways for communities to promote responsibility and healing.” Dominic believes that, “rethinking our view of and response to conflict, and engaging with the challenge of consciously building whole system responses to community well-being, has opened up revolutionary possibilities for furthering a culture of peace.” 1

The capability for Restorative Justice to promote a culture of peace seems supported by the conclusions of some primate researchers. Primate researcher Frans B.M. de Waal of Emory University contends that humans are not, “destined to wage war forever.” Harvard University anthropologist Richard Wrangham agreed with de Waal that, “primate violence is not compulsive, or ‘instinctual,’ but is extremely sensitive to context. One of the most robust predictors of violence between two groups of primates,”, Wrangham proposed, “is an imbalance of power. Chimps from one troop invariably attack individuals from a rival troop when the attackers have an overwhelming number advantage and hence a minimal risk of death or injury.”

“Although humans are much less risk-averse than chimps,” Wrangham asserted, “human societies—from hunter-gatherers to modern nations such as the U.S.—also behave much more aggressively toward rival groups when they are confident they can prevail. Reducing imbalances of power between nations,” Wrangham said, “should reduce the risk of war.”

De Waal also believes that reconciliation takes place “whenever parties stand to lose if their relationship deteriorates.” 2 When an individual and his/her community has experienced harm because of the words or actions of someone, harm to those relationships is also experienced. Restorative Justice tools can help restore balance to all those relationships when attention is focused on the needs of all those impacted. The strategies for repairing the harm that are then co-created by all those individuals who have experienced the harm.

GaNVC therefore experiences RJ as in harmony with NVC practice and is eager to support NVC-based Restorative Justice learning opportunities in Metro Atlanta.

Definitions of Restorative Justice

These are from RestorativeJustice.org.

Restorative Justice is a response to crime that focuses on restoring the losses suffered by victims, holding offenders accountable for the harm they have caused, and building peace within communities.

Restorative Justice, then:

Further Definitions

Restorative justice is a process whereby all the parties with a stake in a particular offense come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offense and its implications for the future.

— Tony Marshall: Restorative Justice: An Overview. London: Home Office Research Development and Statistics Directorate,1999. p5.

Viewed through a restorative justice lens, "crime is a violation of people and relationships. It creates obligations to make things right. Justice involves the victim, the offender, and the community in a search for solutions which promote repair, reconciliation, and reassurance."

— Howard Zehr: Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice. Scottdale, Pennsylvania; Waterloo, Ontario: Herald Press, 1990. p 181.

In short, restorative justice is a process through which remorseful offenders accept responsibility for their misconduct to those injured and to the community that, in response allows the reintegration of the offender into the community. The emphasis is on restoration: restoration of the offender in terms of his or her self-respect, restoration of the relationship between offender and victims, as well as restoration of both offenders and victims within the community.

— John Haley: Crime Prevention Through Restorative Justice: Lessons from Japan. In Restorative Justice: International Perspectives, edited by Burt Galaway and Joe Hudson. Monsey, NY; Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Criminal Justice Press and Kugler Publications, 1996. P. 352.

Restorative justice "holds that criminal behavior is primarily a violation of one individual by another. When a crime is committed, it is the victim who is harmed, not the state; instead of the offender owing a 'debt to society' which must be expunged by experiencing some form of state-imposed punishment, the offender owes a specific debt to the victim which can only be repaid by making good the damage caused." (Zehr, 1990) What constitutes appropriate reparation is decided through a process of negotiation involving not only the offender and the victim but the respective families and social networks who have also been harmed by the criminal act. The ultimate aim of restorative justice is one of healing. Through receiving appropriate reparation, the harm done to the victim can be redressed; by making good the damage caused, the offender can be reconciled with the victim and reintegrated back into his/her social and familial networks; and through such reconciliation and reintegration, community harmony can be restored."

— Joy Wundersitz and Sue Hetzel: Family Conferencing for Young Offenders: The South Australian Experience. In Family Group Conferences: Perspectives on Policy & Practice, edited by Joe Hudson, et al. Leicherdt, NSW, Australia; Monsey, NY: The Federation Press, Inc. and Criminal Justice Press, 1996. Pp. 113-114.

A definition of restorative justice includes the following fundamental elements: "first, crime is viewed primarily as a conflict between individuals that results in injuries to victims, communities, and the offenders themselves; second, the aim of the criminal justice process should be to create peace in communities by reconciling the parties and repairing the injuries caused by the dispute; third, the criminal justice process should facilitate active participation by the victims, offenders, and their communities in order to find solutions to the conflict."

— Burt Galaway and Joe Hudson: Criminal Justice, Restitution and Reconciliation. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press., 1990. P. 2.

Restorative justice may be defined as a response to criminal behavior that seeks to restore the losses suffered by crime victims and to facilitate peace and tranquility among opposing parties.

— Kevin I. Minor and J. T. Morrison: A Theoretical Study and Critique of Restorative Justice In Restorative Justice: International Perspectives, edited by Burt Galaway and Joe Hudson. Monsey, NY; Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Criminal Justice Press and Kugler Publications, 1996. p. 117.

Restorative justice provides a very different framework for understanding and responding to crime. Crime is understood as harm to individuals and communities, rather than simply a violation of abstract laws against the state. Those most directly affected by crime -- victims, community members and offenders -- are therefore encouraged to play an active role in the justice process. Rather than the current focus on offender punishment, restoration of the emotional and material losses resulting from crime is far more important.

— Mark Umbreit: Avoiding the Marginalization and 'McDonaldization' of Victim-Offender mediation: A Case Study in Moving Toward the Mainstream in Restorative Juvenile Justice: Repairing the Harm of Youth Crime, edited by Gordon Bazemore and Lode Walgrave. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press. 1999. p 213.

Restorative justice is concerned with the broader relationships between offenders, victims and communities. All parties are involved in settling the offense and reconciliation. Crime is seen as more than simply a violation of the criminal law. Instead, the key focus is on the damage done to victims and communities and each is seen as having a role to play in responding to the criminal act. As a result of meeting with victims, offenders are expected to gain an understanding of the consequences of their behavior and to develop feelings of remorse.

— Hudson, Joe, et al: Family Group Conferences: Perspectives on Policy & Practice. Leicherdt, NSW, Australia; Monsey, NY: The Federation Press, Inc. and Criminal Justice Press, 1996. p. 4.

Restorative justice is a process that brings victims and offenders together to face each other, to inform each other about their crimes and victimization, to learn about each others' backgrounds, and to collectively reach agreement on a 'penalty' or ' sanction.'

— Russ Immarigeon: The Impact of Restorative Justice Sanctions on the Lives and Well-Being of Crime Victims: A Review of the International Literature in Restorative Juvenile Justice: Repairing the Harm of Youth Crime, edited by Gordon Bazemore and Lode Walgrave. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press. 1999. p 306.

1 More about Dominic Barter

Cynthia Moe

Cynthia Moe is a Registered Facilitator of the Georgia Network for Nonviolent Communication, and Registered Certification Candidate to the Center for Nonviolent Communication, CNVC.org.