March 26th 2021 RESTORATIV WEEKLY: Good News from the world of RJ

We like to share good news from the world of RJ and here are three stories that caught our attention this week:

1.  Hundreds arrested in Philly uprisings may avoid prosecution through restorative justice

On a February morning, in a courtroom armored with Plexiglas shields meant to stem the spread of virus, Philadelphia prosecutors offered updates on hundreds of cases that lawyers said challenge basic ideas about how justice is served.

On the one hand, the victims — small business owners and big corporate chains alike — had sustained millions of dollars in damage during last year’s uprisings against police brutality. On the other, the accused perpetrators were so impoverished virtually all qualified for public defenders, meaning they’d likely never be able to pay restitution.

So, the district attorney’s charging unit supervisor, Lyandra Retacco, was sorting cases into two piles: She requested preliminary hearing dates for prosecution on charges like blowing up ATMs or committing the sort of premeditated burglary that involves renting a U-Haul. For about 80% of the cases, she said, the DA would be offering a program called Civil Unrest Restorative Response, which lawyers on both sides hope will make the community whole — while avoiding prosecution for more than 500 people, a majority of whom had no prior arrests.

2.  Restorative justice film offers insights into criminal, societal behavior

The documentary shows how restorative justice circles can elicit realizations by those convicted of serious crimes on how their abuse at the hands of others shaped them, and often leads them to conclude that their abusers themselves had been damaged early in their own lives.

3.  A pivot, from financial literacy to restorative justice

Collective Climb won a 2020 President’s Engagement Prize as a West Philadelphia-based financial literacy project, but shifted their focus to engage with young people around the issue of community violence.

“When a youth commits an offense that warrants police intervention, police file the case to the juvenile probation officer. It is then either brought up to the DA’s office or directly to a sitting court and prepared for sentencing or hearing,” he says.

Diversion is a “substantive engagement of the holistic circumstances of the entire offensive,” says Kim, urging juvenile offenders to redress the harm they might have caused and encouraging restorative solutions for both parties.