Learn to make it right with restorative justice

In the United States, The Hatfields and the McCoys represent a family that feuded and revenge killed 11 people from 1865-1888. One more Hatfield was hung after a trial for the revenge killing of a McCoy. No healing happens there. It’s revenge driven, and comes from that reptilian part of the brain that is only thinking of “me”or “my.”

The good news is that in some places, we also have something called “victim offender mediation.” The Victim Offender Mediation Association website defines victim-offender-mediation as “a face-to-face meeting, in the presence of a trained mediator, between the victim of a crime and the person who committed that crime … In the meeting, the offender and the victim can talk to each other about what happened, the effects of the crime on their lives, and their feelings about it. They may choose to create a mutually agreeable plan to repair any damages that occurred as a result of the crime.”

Several years ago, Dr. Mark Umbreit, a University of Minnesota professor and founder of the University of Minnesota Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking, came to Kauai. He gave a presentation on Victim-Offender mediation, and showed a video for the Kauai Economic Opportunity Mediators. He stated in an abstract written in 1998 for Western Criminology Review, “Restorative justice emphasizes the importance of elevating the role of crime victims and community members, holding offenders directly accountable to the people they violate, restoring the emotional and material losses of victims, and providing a range of opportunities for dialogue, negotiation, and problem solving, whenever possible, which can lead to a greater sense of community safety, conflict resolution, and closure for all involved.”

In times when jails and prisons are expensive and overcrowded, it will probably become a thing of the future for nonviolent crimes Kauai already has two programs that use restorative justice. Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i Teen Court is based on restoring the harm that was created by the juvenile’s action. They learn about how others were affected by what they did. They learn more about the laws and legal system. When they complete their time and assigned tasks in Teen Court, their records are cleared. Youth who go through Teen Court are much less likely to reoffend than those who go through traditional means.

There is also a Kauai Drug Court administered by Joseph A. Savino. Successful completion of it also clears a person’s record. The Garden Island reported on June 1, 2013 that the “Drug Court graduates all spoke about regaining their self-esteem, re-establishing relationships with parents and children, and the joy of trusting new friends that do not center their lives around drugs.

“Amonette said the program put them in a position to face their fears and addictions without being able to run away.

“Sivanathan said that jail is not enough to help someone stay clean. Drug court provided the support to help her deal with the struggle to stay clean while starting again in the work world and rebuilding her relationship with her daughter and family.”

Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar responded to my asking about restorative justice and victim-offender mediation by saying, “I believe the community service projects administered by the fifth circuit judiciary does incorporate some elements of restorative justice.

“We do make use of mediation in certain, nonviolent cases. Usually these cases involve disputes between neighbors, family members or business associates. The program is run by KEO and helps us avoid unnecessary time in court, which saves everyone money and stress.”

I learned restorative justice from my mother. If any of us kids broke something that belonged to another, we had to replace it. You better believe that we were careful. Another thing she made us do is that if we needed to cut a piece of cake, or something we liked in half to share, one would cut it, and the other had first pick. We also had to apologize for what we did to each other. We were allowed to say why we did it, but it usually sounded pretty lame. The other side was usually gloating at being right, but was also expected to forgive the other.

It sure made more sense to me as a mom to have the kids make it right rather than be grounded, although there were times …

To learn more about restorative justice, which can also work well in families, go to http://www.restorativejustice.org/university-classroom/01introduction  They have a self-regulated set of power point slides explaining it.

By the way, in 1979, the Hatfields and McCoys played opposite each other on “The Family Feud.” Although the Hatfields won more money, the McCoys won the game. The judges awarded them equal amounts. Also, On June 14, 2003 in Pikeville, Kentucky, the McCoy cousins partnered with Reo Hatfield of Waynesboro, Va, to declare an official truce between the families. Reo Hatfield said that he wanted to show that if the two families could reach an accord, others could also.

Hale `Opio Kaua’i convened a support group of adults in our Kaua’i community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues.  Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at aatkinson@haleopio.org

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