A restorative justice story: Donald Fields Jr.

Kalyani Twyman

Kalyani Twyman·– 07/03/2023 8:30am

We recently read the new Gaurdian article Faced with a violent killing, a family chooses forgiveness over prison by Oliver Laughland and found the story so powerful, we wanted to share it. 

The article documents the story of Donald Fields Jr., a man charged with a life sentence for his father's murder, and how his case had a bit of a different ending than most homicide cases: it became a pioneering instance of restorative justice. It talks through the process that Donald Jr. and his family went through and how restorative justice allowed both the harmer and the victims to reach a far better resolution than could have been achieved with a traditional criminal case. 

This was, according to restorative justice experts and practitioners interviewed by the Guardian, the first time they had seen restorative justice used this way in a homicide case. The article argues that while justice reform largely focus on non-violent and drug-related cases, it should be considered in violent cases as well. Over half of the American prison population are locked away for violent offenses, so if we want restorative justice to create meaningful reform on a large scale, it must address these tougher cases as well.

Donald Fields Jr.'s case was violent and deeply emotional, but restorative justice still provided a better solution. The power of restorative justice should not be underestimated or saved for the most straightforward situations.

After the end of the restorative justice process, Donald Fields Jr. was sentenced to the time he had already served and allow to go free. Surrounding him was his family, cheering for his freedom despite the harm he had caused them. He proceeded to share some particularly touching words: "I would like to take this moment to thank restorative justice, the honorable judge, and my attorney for the opportunity to reshape my life and appreciate this chance to continue on the quest of a positive mindset, maturity, dignity, self-love and self-respect which reflects hard work and dedication... Thank you all."

The article ends with another quote by Donald Jr.'s lawyer, "I hope this is the beginning. I hope this is the snowball running down the hill."

We hope so too. 

Read the full article here: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/jun/26/restorative-justice-murder-charge-prison-don-fields