Overcoming prison addiction

Johnathan Kana

June 9, 2011

I heartily agree with Johnathan’s recommendation to exchange retributive paradigms with restorative alternatives because I believe that God’s plan as revealed in the Bible is one of restorative justice–a vision of healing in which victims, offenders, and the communities that have been harmed work together as much as possible to address causes of crime, meet the needs of all, hold offenders accountable, and repair the harm done. Why is incarceration the solution for most crimes?  Prisoners can serve life sentences and still never take responsibility for what they have done. Prison doesn’t hold offenders accountable to face their victims and work to repair the damage. In fact, prisons often do far more harm than good for the cause of justice.
Reducing incarceration will mean that we will have to fight hard against the prison industrial complex that has dominated our criminal justice system for decades, and the people who profit from it. We also need a vision of criminal justice where prison is not the norm. For inspiration, we can look at New Zealand’s treatment of youth crime in all cases except murder and manslaughter. In 1989 New Zealand was the first in the world to institutionalize a form of restorative justice, family group conferences (FGC), which involve offenders and their families, victims and their supporters, a police representative, and a Youth Justice Coordinator to formulate by the consensus of all the entire disposition, not just restitution. The U.S. uses the courtroom as the norm and restorative justice as an add-on. New Zealand uses FGC as the norm, and the courtroom as a backup. What an improvement!

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