Restorative justice offers a peaceful way to find healing

What is restorative justice? It is justice that focuses on the victims and community harmed by a crime. It is not punitive justice which simply punishes the criminal. Restorative justice rehabilitates both parties to help heal the community from the offense. When the U.S. imprisons people, the victims do not receive real healing or payment for their losses; however, if offenders paid back their debt, apologized, or built a relationship with those they hurt, they would have a better understanding of the terrible scars they created.

Peace activists all over the world use techniques like peace circles to help bridge the gap between offenders and victims. Deacon Bill Hickson, the Jail and Prison Ministry Coordinator, uses restorative justice and support systems to help repair damages caused by crime.

Deacon Bill came to Loras last week to discuss his ministry. His motivation is imbedded in Jesus’ words, “I was in prison and you visited me” (Mathew 25:36). Jesus asks us all to love and care for one another, especially the most vulnerable. Deacon Bill believes we have a duty to help ex-offenders reenter communities in order to create more functioning members of society. We do not need more people committing crimes, so this program uses support circles and mentors to aid ex-offenders. It gives them a support system to fall onto when they are struggling, rather than falling back onto criminal behavior.

An ex-felon who attended the circle meetings said he would either be dead or back in prison if it were not for Deacon Bill’s support. He said this program was the best thing that happened to him after prison.

If more people positively support ex-felons instead of avoiding them, there will be a decline in crime, as previous offenders will find new life and rehabilitation in restorative justice measures like peace circles. They will learn how to have healthier relationships and function more positively in the greater world. For more information on Restorative Justice or to join a support circle contact Deacon Bill at dbq060d2@dbqarch.org.

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