We received many e-mails in response to "Beyond Conviction," a documentary that aired Dec. 3 on MSNBC. In the documentary, victims of violent crime struggle to find inner peace and healing by confronting violent attackers.
One viewer said, "Restorative Justice is a good idea only in cases where the perpetrator is sincerely remorseful."
A viewer who has worked in the juvenile system said, "Our system is based on juveniles being accountable to their victims and repairing the harm they have caused."
Read on for more responses:
True restoration has grit and sweat and tears because of the hard work of honesty that accompanies it. Restoration is not a magic experience. I believe that it is earthy and richly packed with new beliefs and feelings based on self-worth and dignity. May the underdog always have a chance! May the unwanted find belonging!
—Michelle Denowh, Middleton, ID
I have worked in the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice System for 14 years and our mission for the past 10 years has been Balanced and Restorative Justice. Our system is based on juveniles being accountable to their victims and repairing the harm they have caused as well as ensuring balanced attention is given to the victims of crime, the juvenile offender and the community. There are so many incredible programs in Pennsylvania that are based on restorative justice. What is most incredible is that due to the tireless work of a handful of very dedicated individuals with incredible vision, this philosophy has not just been adopted in a few jurisdictions, but an entire justice system has changed the way we confront juvenile crime and the youth, families and communities we serve. This is and has been no small feat.
—Diana Munson, West Chester, PA
Thank you so much for airing this powerful film. I am a psychotherapist and I often wonder when people will learn that punishment doesn't work. Consequences - YES public safety and keeping some people contained is important, of course. but we are so out of control in this country with how many people are locked up? Too often the law seemed focused on revenge... and that serves no one! No one heals with revenge; it just keeps suffering, festering. Thank you for showing this window of hope for healing and, yes, I am a victim of violent crime.
—Bonnie Long, Long Beach, CA
This may be helpful to some people, so it should be allowed. In my case, it was of no use whatsoever. I was a child abuse victim, and all those abusers do is deny, deny, deny. They're usually aided in this by other family members who don't want to admit their loved one could do this, refuse to believe it happened, fear embarrassment if the situation is known publicly, or insist that it really wasn't that bad. Other family members who know and admit the abuse may still expect the victim to remain silent for the good of the family - "what happens in the family stays in the family" is often a mantra - or to prevent their loved one from legal repercussions. "Daddy hurt you, but he loves you. If you tell he will go to jail. Do you want that?" The victim will be pressured to "forgive" and "forget and move on." It's only useful if the perp is willing to admit responsibility. Usually they aren't.
—Helaina, Raleigh, NC
Restorative Justice is a good idea only in cases where the perpetrator is sincerely remorseful. And you can't trust a convict trying to get paroled for good behavior to be sincere. He may be sorry he's in prison, but most likely he's not really sorry for what he did to other people. And in the case of sociopaths, attempting restorative justice only gives the perpetrator an opportunity to laugh in the victim’s face, or even exploit the victim and the RJ process as a means of getting out of prison so he can commit new crimes. Sociopaths should be excluded from Restorative Justice and society should make a concerted effort to detect, observe, and prosecute sociopaths, and as often as possible execute them. Serial killers and even serial rapists should not be kept alive in the first place. And in no case should Restorative Justice be used as a substitute for punishment. It shouldn't even reduce a sentence, nor should it be taken into consideration in parole hearings. Otherwise it's just a tool for violent criminals to get out of prison, and that's not good for anyone.
Even though I doubt the feedback will be positive for the survivors or the family of victims, I'm sure that being able to tell the perpetrators of crimes of the lasting hurt will bring some closure to those that need it. As long as victims understand that there will be no revelation or sorrow shown by the person that hurt them, I think it will be good not only for them to confront the person but for society to know that the victim hurts well past the criminal trial and after the sentence is served. It's time that we put the victims aspect of crime into the limelight as the law is, at times, lacking compassion for those effected by crimes.
—Manuela Schiano, Lindenhurst, NY
The stories touched me very deeply. My son was murdered Dec. 21,2004. the people who did this to my 24 year old baby have not been found but when they are I would want to ask the same questions: why? and what were you thinking and have you thought about it since? Did you even think of the family and the children in that person’s life and for that matter did you think of your own family who has to think of you as a murderer? If I had the chance, yes I would want to face this monster.
—Cheryl Ford, Oakland, California