Flickr Creative Commons © Jerry BunkersHere's a letter to the editor in the Des Moines Register which concisely articulates the essence of restorative justice and restorative practices:

In his story of restorative justice (“Growing Past Hate”, April 22) Fred Van Liew shares a poignant example of how rethinking responses to wrongdoing can benefit everyone. He wonders why we aren’t routinely using these approaches in our community.

In progressive societies restorative practices are considered the direction of the future, but these approaches are actually rooted in ancient indigenous cultural practices from around the world. The principles are: all people have innate good, are of value to the tribe, should be guided toward the opportunity to make things right and thus, contribute to the greater good of the community. Restorative practices are remarkably effective and simple. The most difficult part is interrupting our immediate impulse to control and to fix.

Besides the justice system, restorative principles are being successfully applied in schools as well. restorative circles are held in lieu of suspension so that fellow students, teachers, community members, and parents can share how the wrongdoing has impacted them and request what is needed for healing to take place.

When we slow down, listen and speak with open and honest minds and hearts we rediscover our humanity. By continuing to incorporate these principles into our community systems we can make Des Moines the City of Reconciliation.

— Heidi Bagg, Des Moines

The article this letter references describes an amazing restorative conference where restorative justice was used by a Jewish congregation to confront two young people who scrawled neo-Nazi graffiti on the side of their synagogue, powerfully told by Van Liew. That story can be found here.

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