A group of men in prison gather to listen as a mother shares the pain and sorrow of losing her child. The men sit silently with tears streaming down their cheeks while she relives the memory aloud. Concluding with a message of hope, she tells her audience that she has found closure. And she shares that if they are looking for closure too, it is within their grasp if they’re willing to begin the difficult journey of introspection.
This is the image of restorative justice in action, and it is being practiced at the Norfolk State Prison Colony in Massachusetts. The Restorative Justice Retreat, organized by Dr. Karen Lischinsky, volunteer coordinator for the Restorative Justice Group at Norfolk, affords incarcerated individuals an opportunity to choose redemption over recidivism.
Victims challenge prisoners to grasp the pain inflicted on others as a result of their actions, reflect on the root cause of why they committed the offense, and invest in reforming themselves into individuals that will contribute to the future prosperity of their families and communities. Mrs. Odom, the mother who lost her son, demonstrates this process when she says, “You have left an indelible mark, but you can prevent more harm from being done. As a mother, I can tell you we don’t bring murderers into this world.”
The retreat also challenges victims of crime to recognize the dignity afforded to every human being and to encourage human kindness as a tool to bring healing to those who harmed them.
The restorative justice practices at Norfolk State Prison demonstrate how a constructive culture can make for a less violent prison. According to a Huffington Post article, the restorative justice group at Norfolk demonstrates a strong correlation between participation in the program and a reduction in disciplinary infractions, as well as a boost in prison morale.
To learn more about the values of restorative justice that help lead to closure for victims and prisoners, visit www.justicefellowship.org/building-restorative-justice.