Police detective Claire Cassidy was disillusioned after twelve years pursuing young people - often the same ones repeatedly - in the decaying steel town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The story mainly follows the case of one teenage girl gang who rob a convenience store. Using her usual police methods, things don't go well, until she meets the vice-principal of the girl's school. He is trying to introduce restorative practices there, although his principal believes in zero tolerance. The policewoman is also sceptical, but the v-p perseveres (he has a remarkable amount of time to devote to this single case!) and a restorative meeting is held. He does a bit of explaining, and doubts the effectiveness of punishment (p. 54, 56), although the offender's mother accepts it (p. 205); but the tone is not didactic, and the dialogue, including the meeting itself, sounds realistic to an English reader. The victim is still angry, and there is no instant reconciliation. Given the sub-title, we know that it will work out, but there are some credible doubts and setbacks along the way, and some unanswered questions at the end. The story held my attention in a way that a case history would not have done; I recommend it as a good read, with a realistic introduction to restorative practice as a bonus.
Martin Wright is a restorative justice author and practitioner. He is a recipient of the European Forum for Restorative Justice (EFRJ) Award for his contributions to restorative justice over many years.