The film “Finding Courage: Addressing Harm with Restorative Justice Circles” premiered to a full house in Concord on October 23rd. Concord-based Communites for Restorative Justice (C4RJ) created the film, scripted by case worker Christy Barbee and using professional actors, to show how this remarkable process works.
Restorative Justice circles offer a personal, community-based alternative to the often impersonal effects of crime and its punishment: a circle is made up of the offender and family, victim and family, a police officer familiar with the case, and a volunteer from C4RJ to guide the frank discussion and eventual plan of repair. Victims, offenders and families can all share their Perspectives and be heard in a safe and confidential setting where healing can take place on a personal level. The benefits of restorative justice, as discussed afterwards, include:
- Victims get a chance to be heard.
- Offenders experience firsthand the consequences of their actions, and can avoid the court system and a criminal record.
- The recidivism rate for restorative justice offenders is half that of those who go through the criminal justice system. The restorative justice cases most likely to falter involve substance abuse, where it’s been shown that multiple interventions may be necessary.
- The few restorative justice cases that do break down usually drag their feet on what they feel is appropriate restoration.
- Restorative justice is six times more cost effective than the criminal justice system.
- In schools, the restorative justice system has had a profound effect in cases of bullying.
In July, MA Senate Bill #52, An Act promoting Restorative Justice practices was introduced into the state legislature that would give judges and prosecutors the option of referring cases to restorative circles alongside the traditional court system. A report of its findings and recommendations will be filed by their advisory committee no later than December 31, 2015.
To learn more about C4RJ, SB52 and future screenings of “Finding Courage,” please visit www.c4rj.com.