Monday, June 6, 2011

What does the Lord require of us?

Bin Laden is dead.

John Edwards' affair has been exposed. 

Casey Anthony is fighting for her life in court. 

And Nancy Grace keeps talking louder and faster and we all look on, glad for scapegoats.

As long as we can call them monsters and label them as evil, we don't have to look inside and face the darkness of our own hearts. As long as we can talk about how awful their deeds are, we feel safe from eyes that might see the hateful, disloyal, and selfish thoughts in our own heads.

And, while a judicial system is in place that responds to death with death, degeneration will continue. In sanctioning violence done in a socially acceptable manner, we create a society in which violence and death are permissible if deemed necessary. 

"Necessary" to a street kid means jumping someone who verbally slighted their cousin.

"Necessary" to a drug dealer means shooting the enforcement officer who is the opposition in the game of making a quick dollar.

"Necessary" to Bin Laden's family and sympathizers might be retaliation.

Is any of it necessary? All this continued pain, fear, and hatred in search an elusive idea called "justice"?

How is justice served in this old, broken model? Is any unity restored to the families and communities affected? Is any healing brought to the victims? Is any chance of change offered the offenders?
In the present judicial system, crimes are seen as offences against the state, the breaking of intangible things called laws... rather than a wounding of the community. The victims have no voice for their devastation. The offender has no opportunity to face the people his actions hurt and no avenue toward righting their wrongs. Instead, he is removed from the community, reinforcing the isolation, anger, and hurt that most likely contributed to the offence.

And it isn't working. Take a look at these numbers from the Bureau of Justice Statistics:

The rearrest rate for property offenders, drug offenders, and public-order offenders increased significantly from 1983 to 1994. During that time, the rearrest rate increased:

- from 68.1% to 73.8% for property offenders

- from 50.4% to 66.7% for drug offenders

- from 54.6% to 62.2% for public-order offenders

What does the Lord require of us?

Maybe change will be conceived when we can look at offenders and see someone just like ourselves.

Next time... the story of my introduction to resorative justice.