|Text Only Version||
This issue of New World Outlook is about restorative justice. The term denotes a form of justice that advocates restitution rather than retribution, being concerned neither with blame and punishment nor with forgiving and forgetting but with remembering, truth telling, repenting, forgiving, and healing. The goal of restorative justice is to change wrongdoers and, insofar as possible, to make wrongs right.
Restorative justice could be understood as only a commendable after-the-fact attempt to make the best of a bad situation. But the term is meant to encompass more than the reconciliation of victim and offender after an offense has taken place. It includes a preventive component, something I'm going to call prevenient justice. Prevenient justice, like God's prevenient grace, is present in advance.
How can we create a society in which justice would come from just actions before the fact, fair treatment before harm is done, due care before things--or people--go wrong? Prevenient justice would be like preventive maintenance on a car. It would involve the exercise of due care to catch and correct weaknesses before they result in breakdowns of the social fabric.
The murders committed by armed teenaged boys at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, like the high-school gun violence that followed in Georgia, cannot be explained as the action of underprivileged kids who lacked good schools, decent housing, or access to living-wage jobs. Even so, the young males who erupted into violence were underprivileged in another way. They suffered from attention-deficit disorder on the part of the adults around them. The signals they sent out--the signs they gave that they needed help--were ignored by everyone: peers, parents, and police. Sufficient attention was not paid to make prevenient justice possible.
We know that children who are abused often turn into adult abusers. Yet our justice system repeatedly puts the rights of unfit, abusive parents over the rights of children to a safe and stable home. We know that assault weapons have only one purpose--to rapidly kill human beings. Yet the US gun lobby continues to claim: "Guns don't kill. People do." The truth is that people kill people with guns. Yet lax laws and negligent adults have put guns even into children's hands. We know that hate speech, scapegoating, violent videos, and kill-the-enemy computer games can incite people to murderous violence in real life. But we continue to allow the most evil influences in the universe to infect and "educate" our children. Meanwhile, we underpay and undervalue the real teachers who, more and more, have to play the parent's role.
In a world of prevenient justice, we'd have to be concerned with more than getting and spending, staying in style, and raising trophy children. We'd have to reclaim and proclaim the values of our great Judeo-Christian heritage--loving and guiding our children, loving and respecting our neighbors, honoring and rewarding our teachers, and paying attention not just to our jobs but to one another.
Text and photographs copyright 1999 by New World Outlook: The Mission Magazine of The United Methodist Church. Used by Permission. Visit New World Outlook Online at http://gbgm-umc.org/nwo/.
For reprint permission, contact New World Outlook by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next Article: What is Restorative Justice
Would you like to read more articles like this and see more pictures?
Subscribe to New World Outlook!