Justice that mends
Our justice system delivers retribution, but fails to change lives. Paul Chambers explains the benefits of restorative justice
She stands, fragile, surrounded by the darkest of memories. She begins to tell her story, a mother whose son was brutally murdered. This was 1996, South Africa, at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearing. The police officer who ordered the killing was there, listening awkwardly to the details of what he and his colleagues did. At the end of this account, the room fell deafeningly silent. Archbishop Desmond Tutu asked the woman if she had anything to say to the man who killed her son.
She said: “I am very full of sorrow. So I am asking you now – come with me to the place where he died, pick up in your hands some of the dust of the place where his body lay, and feel in your soul what it is to have lost so much. And then I will ask you one thing more. When you have felt my sadness, I want you to do this. I have so much love, and without my son, that love has nowhere to go. So I am asking you – from now on, you be my son, and I will love you in his place.”
Restorative justice is fundamentally a call to rethink the self, community, justice and, ultimately, responsibility. It gives victims a voice and the opportunity to have their loss acknowledged and amends made. It encourages those who have caused harm to acknowledge the impact of their actions and gives them an opportunity to make amends…
This is an extract from the July/August 2014 edition of Reform.