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Focus on Justice

One-page articles originally prepared for Prison Fellowship national affiliates.

Building Coalitions for Justice Reform
One effective strategy for accomplishing major reforms is to join forces with other organizations or individuals in a coalition. A coalition (1) consists of diverse groups and individuals (2) with a common purpose (3) who work together for a period of time to accomplish that purpose. Building or participating in coalitions allows organizations to pool limited resources, develop comprehensive strategies, gain political support, and share the work.
Community Involvement in Criminal Justice
Prison Fellowship’s work includes recruiting and coordinating community members to offer programmes and friendship in the criminal justice system. International standards on the treatment of offenders call for community involvement (these standards will be reviewed next month). They define community involvement broadly, to include all services – paid or non-paid, full-time or part-time – that are provided by private individuals to prisoners and ex-prisoners.
How to Lobby
Lobbying means trying to influence public officials to support or oppose particular legislation, regulations, or other actions. People have tried to influence public officials throughout history. Think of Moses’ meetings with Pharaoh, trying to persuade him to “let my people go.”
What is Justice?
The term ‘justice’ is used in many facets of life – in response to crime, disagreements between individuals, or treatment in the workplace. ‘Justice’ is also found throughout scripture. In Micah 6:8 God’s people are called to act justly. But, what does it mean to do justice? How does the general understanding of justice in our societies compare to a biblical understanding of justice?
What is Restorative Justice?
Restorative justice is a response to crime that emphasizes healing the wounds of victims, offenders, and communities caused or revealed by the criminal behaviour. It involves a way of thinking about crime and its aftermath that is different from traditional criminal justice in three important ways.
Victim Offender Mediation
Victim Offender Mediation (VOM) was the first of the three programmes to be created. VOM brings victims and offenders together with a trained facilitator to discuss the crime and develop an agreement for how to make things right. This process focuses on creating a safe, comfortable environment in which restorative dialogue can take place. At the outset, victims are invited to tell the story about the crime from their perspective, to express how it has impacted their lives, and to ask the offenders any questions they may have. Offenders are then given the opportunity to talk about what they did, to explain why they did it, and to answer any questions that the victim has asked.
Restorative Conferencing
Three programmes are often linked with restorative justice: victim offender mediation, conferencing and circles. These provide places for victims, offenders, their supporters, community members and others to meet for restorative dialogue. While there are many similarities between the three, it can be useful to consider ways in which they offer different, proven approaches to the parties. In reality, restorative programmes usually offer flexible approaches so that they can adjust to the needs of the particular parties. This month Focus on Justice considers the process of restorative conferencing. It is important to remember, however, that any restorative programme is only useful if it helps the parties experience restorative dialogue.
Restorative Circles
Restorative justice processes are tools used to help those affected by a crime – victims, offenders and community members – talk openly about the crime, its impact on their lives, and what should be done to make things right. Three different processes have been identified as restorative: Victim Offender Mediation (VOM), Conferencing, and Circles. This article will discuss the elements of the circle process.
Restorative Outcomes
“Crime causes harm; justice should repair the harm. ” This tagline for a restorative justice programme calls attention to the importance of seeing that victims’ needs are addressed. These harms can be physical, financial, psychological, relational and social. Some are relatively straightforward to calculate, but others are more speculative. What can compensate for sleepless nights, for example.
Why Make Amends?
Crime causes harm to people and relationships. Victims suffer from the direct injuries or losses of the crime, a loss of a sense of security, and stigmatisation or alienation from their community. Offenders experience harm in the aftermath of their behaviour such as feelings of shame, lost relationships with family and friends, and alienation from society. For justice to be done, steps must be taken to repair this harm to allow healing for both the victim and the offender. Making amends is one step toward addressing the harm caused by past behaviour.
Crime's Impact on Victims
Crimes cause crises that remove victims from their normal range of experiences and challenge their coping mechanisms. The realization that they cannot control what happens to them can shatter victims’ sense of safety and security. This trauma can touch many areas of victims’ lives. Understanding the impact of crime on victims is important preparation for working with them, for helping offenders understand the impact of their actions, and for ministering to prisoners and other people who have themselves been victims of crime.
Creating Space for Restorative Dialogue
It is sometimes said that restorative justice is a process, not a programme. The value of victim offender mediation, for example, is not that victims and offenders went through the programme (like cars through a tunnel). Instead, its power has to do with what they experienced while they met with each other. The essence of restorative justice processes is the remarkable communication that can take place during those processes.
Working with Victims and Offenders: Participant Issues
Working with participants—victim, offender, and supporters—in a restorative process can be difficult. Each person brings his/her own experience and emotions to the process. These can range from anger and pain to shame and guilt. It is important to be sensitive to and respectful of the needs of these individuals. This issue of Focus on Justice provides some principles for working with participants in a restorative process.
Working with Victims and Offenders: Process Issues
It can seem intimidating to facilitate restorative encounters between victims and offenders. However, there are some relatively simple principles that will increase the likelihood that the experience will be positive for all involved. This issue of Focus on Justice will explore principles related to the restorative process, and the next issue will address issues related to the participants themselves.
What is Torture?
If confronted by allegations or evidence of torture and other forms of ill treatment, individuals and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can make a difference by reporting the allegations to national or international human rights bodies and NGOs tracking such abuses.
Justice Brings Rescue
The first action of justice is to rescue those who are captive; justice brings release to the oppressed. Gary Haugen of International Justice Mission has written that injustice is the abuse of power. When power is abused, justice seeks to rescue those who are oppressed.
Justice Brings the Day of Reckoning
The second action of justice is to bring accountability or retribution. Justice holds wrongdoers accountable, and in so doing provides vindication of the law and of the victim. The idea here is not of human revenge, but of accountability. The one who has done wrong and has harmed others should be held to account for those actions. If necessary this should come after an official proceeding in which guilt is determined and consequences are laid out. Tied into the idea of retribution is the recognition that safeguards are needed to insure fairness.
Justice Brings Restoration
The third action of justice is to bring restoration. Justice repairs the harm caused by injustice. Reconciliation, which can come only after the material, emotional, and relational harms have been addressed, is a sign that things have been made right.
Justice Brings Righteousness
The fourth action of justice is that it brings righteousness. The term used for this in Scripture is “justification,” which is actually a legal word meaning “acquittal.” But a verdict of acquittal to one who did not deserve it would not be a just action. So when God justifies guilty persons, He transforms them into people who deserve to be acquitted.
RJ Online Redesigned
PFI’s redesigned restorative justice website ( went live on June 1, 2009. It has a new look, navigation changes that will make it easier to use, special sections for justice system officials and employees, and a new blog with daily updates.
Restorative Practice: Facilitator Skills
Open, respectful dialogue is at the heart of restorative justice. Particular processes, such as mediation, conferencing or circles, provide a structure for this to take place. But critical to the success of the process is the skill of the facilitator, whose responsibility is to invite and assist the participants as they enter into the dialogue.
What is remand?
Remand (also called pre-trial detention) is the practice of holding individuals awaiting trial in custodial settings. The United Nations and other human rights bodies discourage the use of remand.
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