Sunday, March 2, 2014

Restorative Justice

How can forgiveness and justice play an equal role in the same situation, especially in the case of a murder? There is one such article from The New York Times titled "Can Forgiveness Play a Role in Criminal Justice?", by Paul Tullis, that describes a case where both forgiveness and justice worked together to help prosecutors decide how to punish a murderer. In this case, a young man named Conor McBride shot and killed Ann Grosmaire, his girlfriend of three years after several days of fighting and tension between the two. The Grosmaire family and the McBride family were very close to each other. It has hard for all of them to deal with Ann's death so they would all meet with each other occasionally in order to be there for each other. The Grosmaire family would even visit Conor in jail.

The Grosmaire family believed strongly in forgiveness and did not want Conor to face the death penalty or life in prison. Before the trials had started on Conor's case, the family stumbled upon a term called restorative justice. This is the process of having all members of a crime come together to discuss what had happened, how it affected each person, and what should be done about it. Restorative justice is used to help the criminal come back from what he/she had done after serving punishment that is necessary to grow, and the punishment must be agreed on by everyone involved. Usually, restorative justice is used in less serious cases such as burglary or vandalism. Before this case, restorative justice had never been used to deal with murder. However, the Grosmaire's insisted that this be done to decide what Conor's punishment would be.

After convincing the state prosecutor to let them decide on a punishment together and then having the ultimate decision made by a judge, the group met and discussed. Although they could not come up with a clear decision, the general term they believed Conor should serve was 5 to 15 years. When the state prosecutor took this proposition to the judge, he upped the term to 20 years with 10 years of probation. Had this group not met beforehand, though, Conor's sentence most likely would have been life in prison or the death penalty.

Restorative justice takes into account both justice that needs to be served to the victim and to the criminal and the ability of the victim and everyone involved to forgive the criminal and gives the criminal the chance to be forgiven. Although restorative justice is not popular, it tends to be a successful method to help everyone that is involved.