Restorative justice is the criminal version of civil mediation. It stresses accountability, admission of guilt, forgiveness and reconciliation. It is the basis for Truth & Reconciliation Commissions that address harm done by one group of people to another that is rarely redressable by a criminal justice remedy.
Because there are so many lessons to be drawn from restorative justice principles and practices for the resolution of commercial disputes of all types, I occasionally post blog entries written by those who are involved in the restorative justice practice. Here, for instance, is a story of community building drawn from the Restorative Justice and Circles blog.
I live in a small town 30 miles east of St. Paul in Western WI. There are several rent controlled apartment buildings in my neighborhood. When I first moved into the neighborhood (over 10 year ago), I noticed many of the children from the apartment buildings wandered around the neighborhood unsupervised in the summer time. Since I have an in ground heated pool in my back yard, and am a former life guard, I decided to open my pool to the neighborhood children one day per week during summer vacation. The response has been overwhelming. I have children of all ages show up on “open swimming” days. Many have no towels or swim suits and just jump into the warm water…clothes and all! They are so excited to swim in the pool. Two little elementary school aged girls were regulars this past summer and I was able to spend time getting to know them.
September came around and I closed the pool down. I decorated my house with scarecrows, corn, and pumpkins. One Saturday morning in early Sept my door bell rang. I opened the door to find my two little summer swimming friends. They were standing on my front porch with two new girls. The two new girls were unfamiliar to me. One of my little swimming friends said, “Mrs. Cranston these two girls stole your pumpkins. We made them come back and return the pumpkins and tell you they are sorry.”