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What is Restorative Justice?

Take deals with the controversial topics of crime, forgiveness, and punishment. It offers a riveting view of the human side of crime. We meet Ana, the mother of a child killed during an armed robbery, and Saul, the gambling addict who committed that crime. In the course of the movie we come to see that a criminal act is much more than "breaking the law." It is also a destructive act that wounds victims, communities, and even perpetrators.

In the movie's climactic scene, Ana asks to meet with Saul. The prison authorities are reluctant to give permission, but eventually relent. It is during the meeting that both find release from the burdens of the past.

Restorative justice is a worldwide movement that, like Take, focuses attention on the human dimensions of crime. Its goal is to help victims, offenders and others touched by crime find a measure of healing and resolution. This may be accomplished through victim assistance and support, sentences of restitution or other ways of making amends, reintegration of ex-offenders into society as productive members, and so forth.

How it works…

The hallmark programs associated with restorative justice offer victims, offenders, and others the opportunity to meet together and talk about the crime, its aftermath and their future intentions. A trained facilitator is responsible to prepare the parties for this meeting and to help them as necessary in the course of the meeting.

Some states allow these restorative encounters to take place in prison. The experience can be life-changing, allowing the parties to move past the event that has defined their lives for so long and begin a new, more meaningful future. However, many states will not allow these visits, even when it is something that the victim has requested.

Where it works…

This year over 600,000 inmates will be released from prison. More than two-thirds will be rearrested within 3 years.

Where restorative justice is allowed to work, it has many benefits compared to ordinary criminal justice. It:

To hear the interview on NPR's "Talk Of The Nation" with Director Charles Oliver and Minnie Driver discussing Restorative Justice: click here.

To learn more about Restorative Justice, please visit www.restorativejustice.org

1. Larry Sherman and Heather Strang Restorative Justice: The evidence (London: Smith Institute, 2007), page 4.

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