Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Restorative Justice reaffirmed: "'A person is a person by and because of other people"

Beth Staples describes a gathering of a restorative justice group in Maine:

Dick Snyder, director of The Restorative Justice Project of the Midcoast, shared an African phrase that he believes captures the essential foundation of Restorative Justice — "A person is a person by and because of other people."

Restorative Justice, he said, is not new. It's a philosophy that borrows from Indian and Aboriginal societies that utilized the entire community to care for victims.

In today's American society where recidivism is high, jails are overcrowded and costly, and there is an adversarial approach to crime, Snyder said we can learn from those societies where it was recognized that we are all a part of one another, that offenders should be held accountable and that healing needs to take place for the harm that was done.

When Snyder and Waldo County Sheriff Scott Story met in 2002, the seeds of The Restorative Justice Project in the Midcoast were sown. Today, after considerable planning, organizing, training and fund-raising, the project is gaining strength, size, branches and caregivers.

More than 60 volunteers are involved in the project, which is funded by the Maine Community Foundation, the Waldo County Sheriff's Department, the Unitarian Universalist Social Responsibility Fund, as well as individuals, congregations and businesses.

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