Horatio

Horatio
[Photo by Jacquelyn Griffin)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Restorative Justice Redux

In view of my speaking this coming Sunday at the St. Barts Forum on Reconciliation, I thought I'd share a post from three years ago:

I think the hardest teaching in the Gospels is Jesus's telling us to love our enemies. It's so easy, as Bernard Shaw pointed out, to "throw oil on the flaming hell of your own temper" and hate. In politics, in religion, in life. Even in intramural civil disputes over property in the Anglican Wars, I've seen each side treat the other treated as not fellow Christians with whom relationships have broken down, but with contempt as bigoted schismatics on the one hand and as libertine emissaries of Lucifer on the other. I have sometimes been guilty of this myself; I have a quick temper and years as a litigator have sharpened my ability to jab or cut with words.

Last week, I was profoundly touched by an article in the New york Times about restorative justice in criminal law; Andy and Kate Grosmaire (Andy is, like me, a postulant for the diaconate in the Episcopal Church)initiated a restorative justice process with the family of their daughter's fiancé, who had murdered her in an argument, and which, thanks to a prosecuting attorney who was willing to try the process, resulted in a surprising degree of healing and reconciliation. Even in cases as serious as murder, other examples can be found.

As the author, almost 20 years ago, of a study of dismissing criminal cases in the interests of justice, I have long hoped that my ministry would encompass trying to bring reconciliation between offenders and the larger society. What I have read on restorative justice in following up on the article about the Grosmaires seems to point a way forward to me. And then, of course, I read about the horrific murder of my law school classmate, Theresa Gorski. I was, simply, shocked. I still am, I think. I asked my church to put Theresa and her children on the prayer list--but I couldn't bring myself to add her husband, Christopher Howson,who is accused of her murder.

I once wrote that we are none of reducible to our worst moments. I believe this with all of my heart, mind, and soul. Andy and Kate Grosmaire, in the worst of circumstances, saw this, and were able to bring themselves to forgive the man who had killed his beloved daughter. That is living one's faith in the most extraordinary way. And it's necessary for healing, and to bring healing.

I'm not saying that, if I were so tested, I could do what the Grosmaires did, what Sharletta Evans did. I hope I never am so tested--save me from the time of trial, indeed--but I can try to apply the lesson demonstrated so heroically by them in my own way.

Pray for Theresa, and her children. Pray for Christopher. Pray for all whose lives were shattered by this horror, and all similarly situated. And, in conflicts great and small, try to remember the humanity of those who hurt me--and hope that those I offend do the same for me. A bit late for a New Year's Resolution, perhaps, but I think that's the one for me. That, and continue exploring the world of restorative justice, to see where I may be led.

***

February 24, 2016: Since I first published this post, I have been looking into restorative justice, and Vera Institute and the the New York Peace Institute (to name but two) in New York City, and the Center for Community Justice in Schenectady, provide opportunities to train, to volunteer and to participate in the hard, but critical work of reconciliation.

As I grow into my calling, I find that the work of reconciliation calls to me in a way that gets beyond my experience as a litigator over more than 20 years. Not to disparage the utility of litigation--but where reconciliation can be achieved, it forms a more full, lasting resolution than any imposed result can. That's a lesson I've learned in my decade now as a labor neutral.

Or, as Winston Churchill famously put it, "Jaw-jaw is better than war-war."

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