Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Radical Compassion: Restorative Justice Program Meets Needs of Both Victims and Perpetrators

A new program allows victims' forgiveness to play a role in prosecution.
A storm of comments swirled around a story about teen murder in the New York Times last weekend. The parents of a young woman named Ann forgave her boyfriend, Conor, for murdering her. Andy and Kate Grosmaire had loved Conor before he killed Ann, their youngest daughter. But they said they did not so much forgive him for his sake as for their own, to free themselves from being imprisoned in hate and anger, and to follow the teachings of Christ (they are committed Catholics).  

What shocked many readers, though, was that they sought a " restorative justice ” process, in which Conor, the two sets of parents and other involved individuals met in a circle with the prosecutor and bared their souls to one another – and thereby succeeded in persuading the prosecutor to give Conor a lower sentence than he would otherwise have received. 

Conor is white, some readers commented, believing that could never have happened to a person of color. It’s unfair and arbitrary, others said: no one’s sentence should be determined by how forgiving or angry their victims’ families are. Forgiveness is a private spiritual matter. Sentencing should to be unemotional and consistent.  

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