Saturday, April 18, 2009

Meet the Panel

PURPOSE OF THE EVENT -- To attract and challenge a sizeable audience concerning issues of justice, injustice and crime; to address the role of the community in bringing restoration and healing; and to provide opportunities to become personally involved. It is our hope that the panel will captivate the group and encourage them to grapple personally with issues of crime and safety in the community — what would a better response be, etc.? — and then to encourage them to become personally involved — to have an impact — by volunteering with one of the agencies that will be represented at the event.


  1. Wow. Restorative justice would be an extremely complex issue. I have no real world experience but two fictional examples come to mind. At the end of the Soprano's t.v. series, the main character's psychiatrist decides that she can no longer treat him based on reasearch that showed that "true" criminals(sociopaths I think) are virtually beyond help. They suggested that even in therapy those individuals are being creatively manipulative and are not necessarily aware of their....pathology(?)
    Then there was an episode of another HBO series, OZ, where an inmate met with a guard whose eyes he gouged out, then participated in a program in which inmates trained seeing eye dogs, one of which the inmate trained for the guard.
    All this to say that in an appropriate culture, where the philosophy is generaly accepted and the funds are made available to implement the restorative programs, they will surely help those that aren't beyond hope. I think there are such people. Whether their wires are crossed or they've just been to severely damaged. Meantime, I think that the justice system needs improvement and that a balance needs to be achieved between addressing the reasons for the crimes/needs of the offenders, and the needs of the victims. Restorative justice could make a difference but until we start taking responsibility for our children as a community, many who are marginalized by poverty, abuse and addiction will continue to turn to crime to survive and self medicate, or in anger, or both.

  2. I have no real world experience. Two fictional examples come to mind though. In the last season of the tv show the Soprano's, the lead charater's psychiatrist decides she can no longer treat him based on research that showed that true criminals(sociopaths?) cannot be rehabilitated. That therapy might just provide them with another situation in which to be manipulative/experience their pathology in a different environment, whether they are aware of it or not. This suggests that some people are just beyeond help. Wires crossed or too damaged. Whatever.
    Then there was an episode of another HBO series, Oz, in which an inmate who gouged out the eyes of a guard, subsequently trained a seeing eye dog for his victim. In that individuals case, notwithstanding his identity growing up on the street and life in prison, he still retained some semblance of a conscience when circumstances would allow it to emerge.
    All this to say that, in a culture that accepts the philosophy and where the funds are made available to implement the restorative programs(?) they would likely help any number of criminals-even non-sociopathic recidivists. This would certainly be preferable to simply warehousing criminals without regard to their individual needs and the needs of their victims. Ultimately though, until we take responsibility of our children as a community and reduce or eliminate the harm caused by poverty, neglect, abuse and addiction, even retorative justice is only addressing the issue from the wrong end. Better than nothing I suppose. And of course this post doesn't even address the issue of the reliability of the justice system.


    Matt, I thought that I'd have the ability as administrator to delete one of your posts after I confirmed both, but apparently not -- even in the cyber world, one's powers are limited!

    Thanks so much for your thoughts. I agree completely and we also share the same TV interests. OZ was one of the best shows around (I think Tom Fontana wrote originally for Homicide in the Streets), and who isn't a huge fan of the Sopranos? Tony said originally that the only end for him was through death or prison. Belonging to a gang is much like being in the Mob -- you just don't leave when you feel like it. And many inmates are parts of gangs, so what's the future for them? There are two separate issues here: that of sociopathy and that of attachment to organized crime or gang membership. Either would seem to doom an offender. I don't know how one would get around that.

    OZ was such a brutal place -- that guide dog really stood out because it took an animal to humanize that guy, who was one mean dude!

    I concur that we have to look at crime in a much larger social context or ultimately, anything we do will fail.I mean, who's behind bars? Inmates are disproportionately male, black in the US and Hispanic, Native and black in Canada, lower income, usually on the young side, and about half are addicted. So while we need restorative justice, we also need higher rates of employment, job skills, better addiction treatment or awareness, and other utopian social programs that are being slashed now, instead of receiving increased funding. S.

  4. Matt, I forgot to refer to your comment about victims. Yes, what kind of justice would it ever be if we didn't take the needs into account of the victims? I've spent the better part of my adult life as a feminist working on behalf of those who were raped or murdered. I would never forsake them. It's sad that there has to be an "us versus them." I wish that we had more of a holistic, gestalt approach that the needs of the victims don't necessarily have to conflict with the needs of the offenders. Maybe that sounds idealistic but a good program should certainly address both.

  5. Absolutely necessary to support each member of our community, especially at the stages where the suffering feels the most intense. It is here where the individual is most likely to surrender to other possibilities through the hope that they can find a better way. It is also a time when assistance for any underlying mental/emotional health issues can be best identified and treated.
    I wish the individuals in pursuit of this work the best of success! Thank-you for your care.

  6. Cheryl, thanks so much for posting. It's so true that mental health issues are paramount. I tend to think mainly about addiction, but of course there are other conditions like unipolar or bipolar depression, anxiety, panic and other psychological or psychiatric issues (borderline personality, schizophrenia, etc.). In fact, one of my friends on the Skeptics' forum suggested that I watch an episode that was just aired this week by PBS Frontline called The Released. It was all about how untreated mental health problems continue to plague people when they're out of prison.

    I guess one issue there would be compliance in terms of taking medication. I'd be all for people checking in every morning at a health clinic in order to make sure that they take their meds -- take your med, now go ahead and enjoy your day! Sigrid

  7. I happened to be surfing Ottawa Citizen columnist and Author Dan Gardner's website and came across this piece in the "archive" section about the American "supermax" prison Pelican Bay. It's an old piece but thought provoking.

  8. Gardner is really well-versed on prisons. And "the supermax" sounds like a nightmare; wonder if Obama will even declare them illegal (inhumane)? Locked in a cell 22.5 hours a day? And then eventually released back into the outside world? EEK! I think that would cause the strongest minds to snap.

  9. Having been the victim of a break and enter, we are aware of restorative justice - it is a joke. The law is for the criminal who has "reasons" for his lawless behaviour.

  10. Hi Anon,

    Thanks so much for posting. I'm really sorry to hear about your experience -- I've been the victim of a robbery and I know what that feels like: pretty unpleasant.

    If you're in the Winnipeg area, I strongly suggest that you attend the discussion. Bring up your concerns. Tell the group why you don't think the model is working. They want to hear from people like you.

    Sigrid, speaking just on my own behalf and not on behalf of the restorative justice group