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Aida Y. Hass, Ph.D. and Jessica R. Corno, M.S. Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminology Missouri State University. Forgiveness, repair and healing: an examination of the Greene County Missouri restorative justice program with implications for peacemaking criminology. Introduction.

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Aida Y. Hass, Ph.D. and Jessica R. Corno, M.S.

Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminology

Missouri State University

Forgiveness, repair and healing: an examination of the Greene County Missouri restorative justice program with implications for peacemaking criminology

  • The debate over the imposition of criminal sanctions has been a fundamental component of criminal justice literature throughout history.
  • This debate has focused on the division between advocates of retributive, punitive ideologies and their opponents who favor a more rehabilitative, treatment approach.
  • Theoretical paradigms have emerged to support both philosophical traditions.

The labeling theoretical paradigm emerged in the 1960s to emphasize the impact of applying the label of deviant to an individual by agents of social control.

  • Studies emerged to show that the application of a deviant label has a significant impact on the individual’s self-image, which results in a cycle of deviant amplification, whereby the activity labeled as deviant is “amplified” by the effects of the negative social reaction.
  • Researchers note that above process has long term effects on the individual’s self identity, and can stimulate their involvement in behavior patterns that reflects the beliefs, ideas and behaviors of the new identity, that are consistent with the development of a criminal career.
  • What can be done to avoid this cycle???
  • The current study consists of a description and analysis of the various components of the Greene County, Missouri Restorative Justice Program.
  • This paper offers a unique study of the operational design and program components of a restorative justice program from an insider’s perspective involved in the restorative justice process.
  • In this article we are attempting to assess the extent to which the current program adheres to the restorative justice model by developing a comprehensive program design that implements the various goals and procedures of restorative justice.
  • The question that we are wanting to answer in this article is: does the restorative justice program in Greene County, Missouri offer a peaceful solution to criminal behavior that integrates components of justice, healing and repair?

This task will be accomplished through a detailed description of the policies, procedures and practices involved in the operation of the Greene County Restorative Justice Program, with specific attention to the extent to which program implementation coincides with the intended outcome goals.

  • Our analysis for this task will rely on Bazemore and Schiff’s core principles of good restorative justice practice (Bazemore & Schiff, 2003).
  • These principles will be used as benchmarks for measuring success in program design and implementation.
  • Bazemore and Schiff’s core principles are divided into three dimensions:
      • Repairing the harm
      • Encouraging dialog between stakeholders
      • Transforming the role of community and government.

Repairing the harm:

      • Offender must make amends for the harm that they have done to the victim and community in order to accept the responsibility for their crime.
      • Making amends means restoring financial loss or damage, as well as serving the community that was affected by the crime.
  • Encouraging dialog between stakeholders:
      • Programs allow offenders and victims to come face to face in order to develop a shared understanding of the impact of the crime.
      • Community volunteers participating in the reparative process are provided with an opportunity to have a direct influence on the offender by instilling a sense of disapproval in a respectful yet authoritative capacity, and act as a collateral contact for the offender in encouraging responsible behavior.
  • Transforming the role of community and government:
      • Community participants on reparative boards bear the responsibility of making key decisions and recommendations in the process.
      • The adoption of restorative justice practices must gain the support and cooperation of key leaders and decision makers within the justice system.

Data for this study was gathered from:

      • Extensive literature from the Greene County Department of Probation and Parole was complied, analyzed and reviewed to determine the guidelines, policies and procedures of the restorative justice program in Greene County.
      • Data was gathered through participant observation as a member of the Greene County Department of Probation and Parole Reparations Board between August 2007 and August 2008.
  • The research design of this article provides a practical approach to the study of restorative justice programs, as it relies on an in-depth analysis of the interpersonal group dynamics and exchanges that are involved in the practical implementation of restorative justice policies and practices.
repairing harm
Repairing Harm
  • Restitution:
      • A major component of the Greene County Restorative Justice Program is the requirement that offenders make full restitution for the loss resulting from their criminal act.
        • The amount of restitution must abide by what was agreed upon in their contract.
        • Payment is made to Greene County Circuit Clerks office, either up front or in regular monthly installments.
        • Board members monitor and verify restitution payments at each meeting.
        • Offenders missing a payment are held accountable and warned of their need for compliance. This warning is accompanied by an effort to teach offenders the importance of accepting responsibility for the damage done and making amend to correct the loss.

Community Service:

      • Offenders participating in restorative justice are required to perform community service projects for nonprofit organizations throughout Greene County.
        • Community service must be approved by the offender’s probation officer, as well as the Board.
        • Hours for community service are established in their contract and can vary from 50 to 200 hours, on average.
        • Offenders are encouraged by the Board to set a realistic goal to complete a certain number of hours each month, in order to be successful and have a positive outcome.
        • The service done for the community is portrayed as a positive contribution on the part of the offender by providing their time, energy and talents in a constructive way to restore the loss that was caused by their crime.
        • Community service hours are verified for accuracy and completion at each Board meeting.

Letter of Apology:

      • Participants in the Restorative Justice Program are required to write a letter of apology to the victim, accepting responsibility for their actions and expressing remorse for the harm done to them.
        • By acknowledging the offender’s hurt, this letter is seen as a further effort at reparation.
        • The letter of apology is submitted to the Board for review and approval.
encouraging dialog between stakeholders
Encouraging Dialog Between Stakeholders
  • Victim impact panel:
    • One of the components of the Greene County Restorative Justice Program is that it encourages dialog between key stakeholders; the process involves offenders attending a Victim Impact Panel (VIP) meeting.
        • The meeting is designed to give offenders an opportunity to gain an experiential understanding of the impact of crime on their lives, giving victims and offenders a forum for communicating face to face.
        • Victims are given the opportunity to express their feelings of hurt and anger, while offenders get a better understanding of how the crime affected their victim.
        • Victims can also gain a better insight into the human side of the offender and be able to comprehend their struggles.

Victim empathy course:

    • This component of the Greene County Restorative Justice Program focuses on developing an understanding of how a victim thinks and feels about the crime.
        • Offenders are required to complete the course curriculum which is designed to impress upon offenders how their actions affected the lives of their victims, accept responsibility for the consequences of their actions without making excuses, and respect the values of others as human beings.

Reparative board:

    • One of the most important components of the restorative justice process in Greene County is the use of a community reparative board as an integral part of the offender’s supervision.
        • The boards are comprised of volunteer members of the community who are trained and educated in the restorative justice process and who play an active role in monitoring the progress of offenders in the program.
        • Meetings are convened by the probation officer who oversees the program, and meetings are held once a month.
        • Offenders participating in the restorative justice process sit before the board members who discuss their progress in meeting the various requirements of their supervision.
        • Board members address the needs and interests of offenders, their progress in making amends for the loss caused by the crime, and their motivation and attitude to abide by the norms and values of a responsible, law-abiding citizen.
transforming the role of community and government
Transforming The Role Of Community And Government
  • Respect essay:
    • A major emphasis in the restorative justice process in Greene County is to place responsibility on board members in making judgments and decisions in holding offenders accountable for their actions.
    • To increase the dialogue between board members and offenders and encourage responsibility, program participants are required to write a 150 word essay on “Why it is Important to Respect Other People and Their Property.”
    • The essay is submitted to members of the board for discussion and approval and must be completed within 120 days of sentencing.
    • The goal of the essay is to make sure that offenders fully understand the wrongfulness of their behavior and are not just putting up a front to complete the program and avoid prosecution.

Prison Tour:

    • Based on the ideology that restorative justice gives offenders a second chance at avoiding the long term stigma of formal processing and incarceration, offenders participating in the Greene County Restorative Justice Program are required to attend a prison tour directed by the offender’s probation officer in cooperation with the Department of Corrections in Jefferson City, MO.
        • This is an opportunity for offenders to understand the consequences of making criminal choices and the potential impact of a career in crime.
        • Offenders must complete this tour and submit a one page reaction essay within six months of commencing their program.

Center for dispute resolution:

    • The adoption of restorative justice practices in Greene County includes a collaborative effort between the Greene County Department of Probation and Parole and Missouri State University to provide offenders and victims of crime with conflict resolution workshops, meetings and consultations through services including: Victim Offender Mediation (VOM), Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), and Family Group Conferencing (FGC).
        • These services provide victims and offenders with the opportunity to participate in facilitated dialogue mediated by community leaders, in a safe and structured setting, without the presence of formal agents.
        • The goal is to hold the offender directly accountable for the crime, while at the same time, allowing the victim to have a say in the case disposition.

Greene county family court common ground:

    • Another effort at transforming the role of community and justice officials to become more active participants in the restorative justice process involves a collaborative initiative between schools that are in the surrounding districts and the Greene County Family Court Common Ground Program.
        • This program works with those who are considered high conflict families, as well as their children.
        • The program is designed to increase the awareness of circumstances that can escalate into situations by mediating family issues stemming from divorce, adoption, custody, and foster care towards mutual resolution for the benefit of all parties involved.
            • This is an attempt to altar the structure of justice from an adversarial role, to a more collaborative approach using a conferencing model.
            • Allows for the facilitation of discussion by a neutral third party mediator to convene with parents, child welfare agencies, attorneys and other parties involved in the case, to understand each others’ points of view, and collaborate with one another to develop positive solutions.
  • The current study paints a positive picture of the program design and implementation of the Greene County Restorative Justice Model in terms of:
  • Integrating various policies and practices that are integral components of good restorative justice principles,
  • Creating a sense of social responsibility to the victim and the community, utilizing a collaborative approach to support the offender’s rehabilitation and positive reintegration into society.
  • Avoiding the escalation of formal criminal justice intervention by providing offenders with the opportunity to participate in programs that avoid formal processing.
  • Implications for future research point to the need for further empirical evaluation to assess the long term effects of these practices on the positive reintegration of offenders into the community.

The benefits of integrating a restorative justice model within the Greene County Department of Probation and Parole is seen in the successful design of a framework for responding to wrongdoing that relies on innovative solutions which focus on healing broken relationships between victim, offender and community.

  • A rapidly growing acceptance and support for restorative justice practices is seen in the:
      • Educational,
      • Social work, and
      • Counseling professions
  • The need to embrace restorative justice practices within the field of criminal justice is also elaborated in the literature on peacemaking criminology.

This body of literature emphasizes the need for the development of an appropriate pedagogy that searches for deeper solutions in responding to social problems.

  • Focus of attention shifts from traditional criminal justice responses to law violating behavior that seek punishment and retribution, to alternative solutions that embrace principles of healing, restoration and empowerment to the victim.
  • The essential principles of restorative justice are therefore the starting point for consideration of a more generalized patterned response to crime in our society that draws upon the paradigm of peace making criminology, where solving the problem of crime becomes inherently connected to broader principles of social justice and equity.
  • By collectively identifying and addressing the harms, needs, and obligations that result from law breaking behavior, we are better able to create healing and make things right for victims, offenders and the community.
  • An examination of the program design and implementation of the Greene County Restorative Justice Program reveals that there is a clear linkage between restorative justice principles as set forth by Bazemore and Schiff’s core principles of good restorative justice practice and various components in operation.
  • The evolution of the various practices can have direct implication and recommendation for principled empirical evaluation.
  • The need for design evaluation is an integral component for future research in the area of long-term outcome measures of success of effective restorative justice practices in reducing recidivism and achieving mutual transformation of the victim, offender and the community

The current study sheds some light on the need to conduct a benefits assessment when evaluating specific program components, which is grounded in the theoretical literature.

  • A theoretically grounded benefits assessment is the corner stone of successful guidance of policy in the direction of advocacy for the development of approaches to crime and delinquency that draw upon the specific programmatic strengths and effectiveness of restorative justice components and practices, in an effort to achieve justice and equity in the daily lives of all individuals who come into contact with the criminal justice system.