Restorative Justice Rehabilitates – The Crimson White

Although restorative justice had its beginnings in the criminal law system, the term has expanded to speak to society on a larger scale and encourage reflection on our history to spark more thoughtful conversations and deliberate change. .

According to EdutopiaIn the legal system, restorative justice emphasizes repairing the harm done to people and relationships by rehabilitating offenders and offering them a chance to reconcile with victims and the community rather than exclusively punishing them.

Restorative justice advocates today suggest that policy makers should aim to make justice systems truly correctional. By supporting the rehabilitation of offenders and providing them with access to higher education, the chance to heal relationships, and acceptance upon returning to the community, advocates hope to reduce recidivism rates.

Brenita Softley, a third-year law student at UA, said restorative justice is about focusing on how people can be healed again based on a justice system designed to bring them down.

“Giving the option of restorative justice can help heal on both sides, so I think that’s really important to look at,” Softley said.

She said society must work to change its implicit biases so that everyone can be seen as redeemable.

“To do that, we really have to focus on changing the way people think,” Softley said.

She hopes that today’s criminal justice system can begin to take steps to rehabilitate offenders and open conversations that will lead to healing for all parties in these situations.

“I think it’s really important to study law through a lens of history, but also to study law through a lens of compassion,” Softley said. “Rather than simply calling the person a ‘monster’ or ‘unsalvageable’, restorative justice helps you get over the things you’ve done. »


The University of Alabama has a complex history, and faculty on campus have worked to take a holistic approach to how its story is told.

This was done through historical markers that honor the history and experiences of Black students at the University. Hilary Green, associate professor of history in the Department of Gender and Race Studies, created Sacred Grounds Walking Tour in 2016 “to shed light on the lives, experiences, and legacies of the many enslaved men, women, and children who lived, worked, and even died at the University of Alabama.”

It is important that the University make this progress a sustained effort.

Jenny Shaw, an associate professor in the Department of History, said that in 2018, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution asking the University to establish a formal commission to investigate the history of the race, to slavery and civil rights on campus.

According to the proposal, the purpose of the resolution is to share “AU’s rich and diverse history, from its past as a slave to its continued trajectory to become a more diverse and inclusive campus since the enrollment of the first African students.” -Americans”.

“If we are going to take the history of race, slavery, and civil rights seriously at the University of Alabama, the only way to do that is to look at it as holistically as possible” , Shaw said. “I don’t think anything or anyone has any interest in turning away from things or deciding that you don’t need to know the whole story.”

the Faculty Senate said this commission would build on previous efforts such as the Slavery Apology Marker, Autherine Lucy Foster Historical Marker, and Malone-Hood Plaza, to continue its progress toward a more inclusive and diverse campus.

“What I think is really important is that the whole process, and especially the findings, be made as accessible as possible to anyone who wants to be able to see them,” Shaw said.

This work will allow the team to create a website showcasing the University’s research, documents and history. After the launch of the website, the University will also be able to join the Consortium of Universities Studying Slaverya multi-institutional collaboration focused on orientation truth projects in institutional histories.

“It’s a very first step, but if it’s a step that leads to better, more productive conversations, and then potentially and eventually some kind of action, I think that’s what everyone’s hoping for in this kind of a storyline,” Shaw said.

On the campus

The University Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion worked to implement the values ​​of inclusivity on campus.

G. Christine Taylor, the University’s vice president and vice provost for diversity, equity and inclusion, said that for restorative justice to be effective, it must start small. Enacting real change, she said, requires tough conversations.

“Nowadays…you’re able to say something or put something in the atmosphere and never fully understand the impact of what you’ve done,” Taylor said.

Restorative justice allows offenders to understand the consequences of their behavior, to see the impact of a situation on lives and to take responsibility for their actions.

Taylor highlighted how restorative justice can inspire the way people see movement and change. For it to be implemented properly, there must be full participation and authentic conversations.

“One of the most important things missing in the conversation about justice today is courage,” Taylor said. “I think people probably see a lot of things every day and hear a lot of things every day, but do they have the guts to disrupt that behavior?”

John Giggie, an associate professor in the history department, said restorative justice began as a concept in criminal law, aimed at giving voice to people who were underrepresented and denied justice for too long.

However, he stated that restorative justice is not a punitive orientation, but a more empathetic type of reform; it has taken on a broader role that can be applied to law, American culture, communities, and society at large.

Giggie said the University has enormous power within the state and region and because of this has the opportunity to be a leader in fostering education, awareness and action. in favor of restorative justice practices.

He said it was important to look at what restorative justice means for young people and the role the University plays in it, “not just the University as a research mechanism, but as a educational organization.

Giggie has set up courses and programs that allow students to explore more of the subject that inspires them. Some of these include courses in religious civil rights and queer history, a social justice summer academy, a program with the Equal Justice Initiative at Montgomery and black history classes at Central High School.

“I think part of the key is to imagine being a college community in a different way. It means being more and more present and attentive to those who lived near us and around us, but who are not necessarily part of our official campus,” said Giggie.

He said he felt guided by his students and the people of the Tuscaloosa community when it came to identifying what kind of action could be taken to engage individuals in these projects and better showcase the history of Alabama.

“I think their understanding of what constitutes value, what constitutes history, is something that we don’t always pay attention to, but they can teach us a lot,” Giggie said.

Restorative justice requires people to push boundaries and be creative to promote change and pave the way for the future. This practice sparks conversations of empathy for everyone involved.

By taking into account the harm that has been caused to a community while understanding the factors that caused the behavior of the offender, it is possible to work towards reconciliation and healing for all involved.

“What if we redirected our understanding of children who act out or young offenders and grounded it more in their mental health history or their family history,” Giggie said. “Then all of a sudden it can lead to empathy and it can lead to policy change. I really believe that.

There have also been moves toward restorative justice in the University’s theater department. Restorative justice as an art form requires the ability to take harmful words and images and correct them into something to celebrate and examine to empower future generations.

In this vein, the production of the University of “The museum of colorsa play comprised of 11 separate “mini-plays” challenging and satirizing racial stereotypes and briefly delving into the experiences of queer people of color, is an act of restorative justice.

Christian Tripp, director of the play and full-time instructor in the theater department, said his main goal in choosing “The Colored Museum” was to find a room that would best serve the students on campus and the greater Tuscaloosa community.

Tripp described the play’s commentary as a great conversation starter about what it means to be black at this time in history, even though the play was written decades ago.

“The big overarching message that I want audiences to walk away with is to challenge their own preconceptions of what it means to be black,” Tripp said. “For a typical American theatrical audience, so they can go home and wonder why they laughed. And for the atypical audience – black audience more often than not – for that perspective, I hope they would take away the feeling of reclaiming their own images, their own voice, their own power.

This story was published in the Justice edition. See the full issue here.

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Elna M. Lemons