It is easy to dream about a justice system where what we currently have is no longer the case and restorative justice has taken its place. Taking offenders and talking with them, setting them on a path for success is what we all want to happen. Offenders understanding why what they did was wrong and how they can change their behavior to not re-offend is what we all want.
In a TED Talk on restorative justice, Adam Foss, a prosecutor, speaks of his vision for a better justice system. When he is sat down with clients, he can make a choice. He either decides to send them to trial or he works with them. He almost always chooses to work with them. He talks with them about the crime that had been committed and he helps them understand where they went wrong and then sets them up for success. In the talk he speaks of Christopher, one of his clients that had stolen a large amount of laptops from a Best Buy. This was Foss’ first client and everyone expected him to send Christopher to trial. Instead, he sat down with Christopher and talked with him. He got a backstory from him and had a better understanding behind why Christopher stole the laptops. In the end Christopher and Foss worked together and recovered about 75% of the laptops and set up a payment plan for Christopher to pay Best Buy back. But why would Foss spend his time doing this? Why not send him to trial and eventually jail? Because Foss saw that Christopher was a young kid who had a troubled past and needed someone to believe in him, and Foss did. Now Christopher is a bank manager at a large bank corporation and makes more money than Foss. If you want to watch the TED talk, you can find it here: https://youtu.be/H1fvr9rGgSg
That story sounds like exactly what our justice system should look like, but instead we throw offenders in jail and forget about them. Most of the time these offenders don’t necessarily know that what they are doing is wrong and they need to be reminded of it, but throwing them in jail prevents that. It is my dream to be part of the re-imagining of our justice system. We need to care more about the offenders and not the money gained from the state in the end. Offenders are humans too, they need someone to believe in them, and that is what both restorative justice as a concept and Washington County Community Circles is doing. They are taking offenders and looking at them as humans who just need someone to believe in them, and it’s working.