"This notion of good guys and bad guys is really false. Every single one of my clients has had an incredibly traumatic past, and if I had caught them a few years earlier, if I had been engaged in their life a few years earlier, they would have been on the victim side instead of the offender side."
– Sujatha Baliga, Director of the Restorative Justice Project at Impact Justice and Healing Justice documentary participant
Who experiences violence? Traditional models divide the world into two categories: perpetrators and victims/survivors, and these models have been necessarily focused on those victims and survivors. Yet, as our newest film Healing Justice explores, our lived realities paint a much more complex picture.
When an individual is labeled an offender, they are no longer seen in their full experience, which supports rationale for their punishment and imprisonment. Those who are disenfranchised - young, poor and/or from communities of color - are often portrayed as disposable because of the harm some have caused. But many of those who are considered offenders today, had they come into restorative justice programs earlier, would be considered victims of violence.
The traditional American legal system has no capacity to hold space for healing, and instead takes offenders out of society. This robs them of opportunities to heal and repair the hurt that they caused. It does not heal and get to the root of why they did what they did. It potentially subjects them to harm within the prison industrial complex. It effects their immediate family and surrounding community.
In order to question the current judicial system, we must question the policies and procedures the legal system uses in order to enact its framework. Restorative justice models, as expored in our film, suggest that a more productive pathway is to focus on the healing of all people involved in violence, repairing all the harm. It assumes that the people who have caused harm have likely experienced harm themselves and can often help repair the harm they committed with the victim.
*** INSERT INFOGRPHIC FROM 1st PART OF THE FILM - emailed S, R and Sean 10/31
In an interview with Nia King on the podcast We Want the Airwaves, disability justice activist and survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Mia Mingus, speaks on how true justice holds complexity. She speaks in reference to people who have caused harm, saying:
“We know we have to work with people who have caused harm and who have been violent. We’re not going to be able to end violence by just working with survivors and bystanders. Those categories are not mutually exclusive either. So many people occupy all three, occupy two. [They] are survivors and are people who have been violent, have witnessed violence and are bystanders, and are people - whether they did anything or colluded with that violence they witnessed - and they survived violence.”¹
Study after study shows that the healing components of restorative justice processes have profound effects on future recidivism rates. New Zealand implemented restorative justice practices nation-wide more than twenty years ago and now there is virtually no juvenile incarceration other than for homicides.² Having been throught the process once, 70% of participants never enter the justice sytem again. Whereas in the United States, in CA for example, often more that 2/3 of juveniles re-enter the judicial system.³
As you watch Healing Justice and read more about restorative justice, consider who experiences harm in their communities and how “hurt people hurt people” if they do not have access to process their own trauma.
¹Links to We Want the Airwaves: http://qtpocart.libsyn.com/ and to the transcript of the interview with Mia Mingus: https://www.scribd.com/document/245316392/We-Want-the-Airwaves-Mia-Mingus