Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Promise of Restorative Justice

I had an amazing experience last week at a Salon sponsored by the Southern California Mediation Association. We screened Rachel Libbert's excellent documentary "Beyond Conviction". There, she told the story of three victims and the perpetrators who had each been convicted of a violent crime against them, confronting one another. The power of the admissions and the inquisitions and the acceptance and healing was palpable. For me, the experience was only enhanced by the fact that I had invited a friend, Rabbi Yossi Carron to the screening. Yossi works as a Prison Chaplain in the L.A. Men's Central Jail. As he left, he whispered to me: "This is incredible. I want to screen this film at the Prison, to show it to "my guys", and let them see the power of apologizing and the promise of forgiveness and healing. And I want you to come (on behalf of SCMA) to explain how mediation works."

As a civil, commercial mediator, I don't have that sense of transformative mediation too often. Here, although I'm not sure I have the courage to facilitate this type of mediation, I felt for the first time that I had the power to change lives and even the penal system in California in a small way with enormous potential consequence.

I have not felt quite so excited by the power and promise of mediation since the day I finished "The Moral Imagination", by John Lederach. Rachel Libbert is to be congratulated. What an awesome undertaking.

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