Posted on 11. Jun, 2016 by Franciscans For Justice.
Support AB 2590!
Despite our overcrowded prisons, recidivism remains at an unacceptably high rate. Last year, a broad array of faith-based and community organizations convened and agreed that the current criminal justice system, founded upon the sole purpose of punishment, has failed. Along with Assembly Member Shirley Weber (D- San Diego) they created AB 2590.
This bill considers effective alternatives to incarceration, specifically restorative justice solutions, as well as opportunities for rehabilitation for those already incarcerated.
Specifically, AB 2590 would declare that the purpose of sentencing is public safety and this can be achieved through accountability, rehabilitation and restorative justice.
Prisons cannot hold offenders forever. Most will need to be reintroduced into society. In order for them to be productive citizens that can become important contributors in communities, it is the public’s best interest to rehabilitate them.
We believe that both victims and offenders are children of God. We believe a Catholic vision of crime and criminal justice can offer some alternatives. This bill which offers an alternative to punitive justice will create change within our criminal justice system and places on emphasis on public safety.
This bill will be heard on Friday, May 27 on the Assembly floor. Please ask your member to consider supporting AB 2590.
To learn more about restorative justice please visit: restorejustice.com
Posted on 12. Sep, 2015 by Franciscans For Justice.
The following is from the Catholic Legislative Network:
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development awarded a $500,000 National Grant to the California Catholic Conference to implement Restorative Justice practices to address violence in nine (Arch)dioceses. This funding allows us to continue the work we began two years ago, when first awarded this grant.
Diocesan efforts have spent the past two years identifying community needs, lifting up and educating grassroots leaders and leading Night Walks in the state’s most violence-plagued neighborhoods. We are also providing direct services that respond to the needs of victims, offenders, families and communities impacted by crime and the policies of the correctional system.
The focus now is to expand our grassroots organizing, education and program efforts. By responding to the needs of those most impacted by crime and violence, it is our mission to reduce violence and lift up crisis communities.
The CCHD also awarded us an additional grant for a communications intern to assist in our work. We will be enhancing our web presence with a focus on increasing the use of social media.
We invite you to join us to LEARN about restorative justiceand what our Church teaches. PRAY for all who are affected by our criminal justice system. ACT to bring healing to your own community.
Posted on 11. Apr, 2015 by Franciscans For Justice.
Franciscan School of Theology
March 2, 2015
Please enjoy Fr. Joe Chinnici’s homily from February 27th.
Does the Gospel Make a Difference?
My sister Rosemary has been involved in work for restorative justice for many years. She is a sister of Loretto, a psychologist with a great commitment to justice for others and compassion for those suffering. Through a U.S. Justice Department program she was hired to interface between families of victims of a capital crime and prosecuting attorneys, trying to convince the members of the family who had lost a loved one not to push for the death penalty for the criminal; and to convince prosecuting attorneys sometimes trying to make a name for themselves to argue for a penalty commensurate with the crime but excluding death as a punishment. Not an easy task, as you might note; but she is good at it. One day a few years ago she came all excited into my office. “I have just witnessed something really extraordinary!” This was highly unusual since she would often come back from her court cases noting how difficult were the prosecuting attorneys and how injured were the family members. I perked up–what had my sister seen?
It turns out that for several months she had been working with a woman whose son had been violently murdered by another young man. The mothers of both sons had gone to court to witness the proceedings: the one doing her best to assimilate what her son had done and also trying to be faithful to him as belonging to her; the other mother coming to court every day to see that justice was done and that the murderer of her son would in fact lose his own life to justice. Rosemary tried over time to get the offended mother to be open to the possibility of a punishment less than death. She would not budge: “He deserves to die.” The prosecutors also would not budge: “We are not soft on crime.” As the trial went on everyone got more intense, and the mother of the victim angrier and anxious. Her son must at least be recognized as worth the ultimate price of another’s man’s life. She spent much of the time just glaring at everyone. “I will never forget nor forgive what has happened.” Meanwhile, the mother of the criminal got more distraught and confused.
One day, during a break, Rosemary, thinking she had completely failed in her task of reconciliation, stepped out of the courtroom to get a glass of water. When she came back, something extraordinary was happening before her very eyes. There in front of her she saw the mother of the victim embracing the mother of the criminal, each sobbing and holding the other in their arms. Rosemary could not believe it. The event was entirely unexpected and completely spontaneous. She waited until the day’s sessions were over and asked the one mother what happened; Why had she done this? The woman said, “Well, I am not sure what happened. It just happened. I was sitting there, as angry as ever, and all of a sudden it occurred to me: ‘You know, I am not the only one who has lost a son during this whole thing; the mother of the criminal sits there, lonely and without friends, mourning.’ And I felt so sorry for her. She is just like me. And all of a sudden, there I was, running over to her and embracing her and telling her, “We have both lost our sons this day.” She is now my friend.
“Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees you shall not enter the kingdom of God.” (Mt. 5.16) These words that begin our Gospel this morning pick up a fundamental theme in Matthew’s narrative of the Good News. “Righteousness”, deeply rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures and sometimes translated as “justice” or “holiness”or “uprightness”, captured how people were to be before God and neighbor. They were to do God’s will in the TORAH. Joseph the husband of Mary– unwilling to shame his betrothed and open to the possibility of God’s work in another human being– was the epitome of the “righteous man.” (1.19) The meaning of righteousness comes up again in the scene of Jesus’ baptism. The Baptist protests: It is not right that the higher should receive from the lower. But Jesus responds in all humility, “Allow it now for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (3.15) Righteousness in the human sphere imitates the power of God’s humility. The Lord also tells the crowd gathered on the mountain: “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” (5.6) Later on he will teach, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (6.33)
The Gospel today is a great invitation not to practice our own sense of justice but to enter into a much deeper knowledge and practice of God’s righteousness. The Gospel calls us not only to teach by word but also by example; it challenges us to a practice of righteousness. Real justice apparently is not a value but an action. We are to remember and then act upon the fact that we are “children of our heavenly Father,” our God who makes his “sun to rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust…Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (5.44-48) The Gospel is not so much a critique as a great call to something really beautiful, becoming in this world, as much as possible, like God in whose image we are made.
It is a tall order–and the practice of Gospel righteousness does not mean that we simply forgive and forget, as if The Lord was calling us to be wimpy and soft, squishy followers of a God who masks himself as some type of Caspar Milquetoast do-gooder (here the reference dates me, but I can’t help it, it was a phrase my mother used with both Rosemary and I; “What are you,” she would say when we would avoid some confrontation that needed to happen. “What are you, some kind of Caspar Milquetoast”)? Justice and equity, even that which poor humans try to administer, are important in this world and sometimes we are called to administer it, much like the poor judge in Augustine’s great passage in the City of God (XIX). Justice, as the scriptures tell us over and over again, will have its own way in the long haul: the Sanhedrin will exercise their duties, Gehenna is a possibility, brothers and sisters “will be liable to judgment.” What goes around, comes around.
Righteous action is important. Still, we as followers of Christ in the tradition of our Franciscan inheritance, are called to an even greater righteousness, a quality of life that changes the administration of justice and affects its modality. We are called in the midst of all signs to the contrary to witness to the fact that the Kingdom of God already exists in this world, even if only in an inchoate way. Bonaventure argues this point in his great treatise defending the evangelical life of the Franciscans. He believes this call to a deeper righteousness is what differentiates the followers of Francis from other very good Christians. By their practice of the virtues the brothers and sisters of this movement take to heart: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you shall not enter the kingdom of God.” It is a wonderful vocation we here at the Franciscan school have, called as we are in the midst of practicing our little justices to inject into this very practice the utter gratuity of God’s charity, compassion, forgiveness, patience, forbearance, respect, solidarity with those who are suffering. It is this practice, which will require penance and self-mastery, that will enable the world to move closer to the life of its Creator.
Knowing the difficulty, the Lord, in his wisdom, asks us to begin in a small way: How do we use our tongues? What are the terms in which we talk about our neighbors? Does the resentment in our hearts spill over into our public ridiculing or demeaning speech: “Raqa,” “fool.” We need only to turn on the TV or read the papers or go the movies or examine social media to see the problem and to know the direction into which we are called.
Even these small steps however cannot finally happen without grace. As the mother in our story realized, even though my sister had worked at it for months and the mother had pondered the challenge for a long time, it finally happened spontaneously, without planning; almost as if a seed had fallen on good soil, planted itself in the heart, took root over time, and then suddenly received water or light or heat or an activating energy from a place the participants did not anticipate. Immediately the seed flowered as it broke through the hard surface of the procedures of law that had trapped all the court participants in the human ways of justice. Something extraordinary had happened.
Thanks be to God, in his knowledge of our weakness, our Lord gives us a means of rooting out our anger and making the extraordinary grace of true righteousness an ordinary dimension of life. We are in the courtroom of life right now. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,” the apostle James writes.” (James 1.17) That gift from above that plants true righteousness in our hearts is the grace of the Eucharist. Jesus indicates the way it happens by telling us a story placed in the middle of our Gospel passage. It is about a person who does their homework and takes the gift they imagine they have to the altar. But, at the altar, their memory is activated: At the altar the Lord breaks his own life for them, performing righteousness by bending down to be received by them, giving up his life for his friends and his enemies, raining his food down on the just and the unjust. “…this is the blood of the covenant which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sings” (26.28) he says, and hearing the words we recall not how we have been wronged but how we have wronged each other. Remembering this, we act upon it, go into the world, and practice reconciliation. In the end, having practiced God’s righteousness, we return to the altar with a different gift. Now, having entered the kingdom we offer to God a great prayer of gratitude for his Son. Empowered by his example we have placed ourselves in the hands of another, injecting into the world of courtroom justices an act of humility that forms a truly human community of forgiveness. Anger flees, the communion of friendship arrives, and a small bit of peace comes to the world. Amen.
Posted on 30. Dec, 2014 by Franciscans For Justice.
Sponsored by the OFM Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation International Council and the Interfranciscan JPIC Commission, this document contains stories, reflections, and resources about nonviolence in general and within the Franciscan tradition. Click the link below to view the document or copy and paste the link to your URL bar:
Posted on 13. Dec, 2014 by Franciscans For Justice.
The following article is from The Peace Alliance and written by Dorothy J. Mavor, PhD:
As people all over the country take to the streets following the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, one thing is imminently and painfully clear. There is serious unrest and dissatisfaction at the heart of the US citizenry regarding the very system that was designed to keep people safe and secure. And the USA is not alone. All over the world we are recognizing the need for systemic change as we experience an all-systems crisis.
In response to the protests of the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, Molly Rowan Leach, host of Restorative Justice on the Rise, and contributor to Kosmos Journal shares:
“MLK Jr once said that a riot is the upswell of unheard voices. Restorative justice is foundationed in mutual respect and a safe place for all voices to be heard, regardless of the pitch of the crime. The pattern of agony and injustice that continues with the Michael Brown case could, and I believe is soon going to be, addressed on a very deep community level–by practitioners of restorative justice, by all the wide circles of those impacted, and often with the blessing of those harmed and those authoring harm, in order to discontinue the cycles of violence that are evident at excruciating levels in this country. We are seeing an upswell of humanity calling for a better way, in places like Seattle in response to the recent school shooting, and a call for immediate and respectful actions that provide tangible avenues towards voicing pain and working towards any semblance of rebalance and implementation of longer-term systems of restorative response.”
Director Sandy Heierbacher, in her message to the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation community, stated:
“Last night, President Obama addressed the nation after it was announced that Darren Wilson would not be indicted … He talked about America’s long-standing struggle with race relations and racial inequity, and how despite considerable progress being made over the years, much more work needs to be done. He emphasized the need for criminal justice reform and for stronger police-community relations. He mentioned that there are communities that have been able to deal with this in an effective way. Here is a quote that I’d like to draw your attention to: ‘But what we want to do is to make sure that we’re also focusing on those who can offer the kind of real progress that we know is possible, that the vast majority of people in Ferguson, the St. Louis region, in Missouri and around the country are looking for. And I want to be partners with those folks, and we need to lift up that kind of constructive dialogue that’s taking place.”
Director Heierbacher further shared that one of President Obama’s strategies is to work with the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service (CRS) which has offices in 15 locations across the country.
There is a window of opportunity in the USA for authentic dialogue regarding how to address social justice, criminal justice and an increasing prison population. The approach Kosmos supports is solutions-oriented, focusing on what we want and creating the conditions for that systemic change. It seems that the US is at a tipping point regarding such an opportunity. The question remains whether it can be done through dialogue and deliberation rather than protest and prosecution.
Restorative Justice Oakland Youth Executive Director Dr. Fania E. Davis shared the essence of her work in the public schools in a recent interview:
“Learning about RJ integrated the lawyer-warrior-healer in me. Prevailing retributive justice harms people who harm people to show that harming people is wrong. It adds to the original harm. Harmed people go on to harm other people. Harm replicates, metastasizes. RJ seeks to interrupt this vicious cycle by healing the harm. RJ is a justice that is not about getting even, but about getting well. A justice that is not a battle ground but a healing ground. A justice that seeks to transform broken lives, relationships, and communities rather than damage them further. A healing justice rather than a punishing justice … Children in Oakland, considered one of the most violent cities in the nation, are today learning a new way of navigating conflict through Restorative Justice.”
In the Washington Post it was reported that U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Monday night called Brown’s death a “tragedy” that has “sparked a national conversation about the need to ensure confidence between law enforcement and the communities they protect and serve.”
We agree and also know that DMC (Disproportionate Minority Contact) is a serious problem in cities such as Ferguson. In Gainesville, Florida, the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding (RPCP) has been working for a safer community with Law Enforcement over the past three years. Their work includes a program directly addressing DMC, training in social-emotional skills, and is leading to embedding Restorative Justice principles in the system. This transformational comprehensive approach is now becoming a translatable process model for other communities.
Jeffrey Weisberg, RPCP Executive Director shares:
“We are so heartened by the response that we have received from officers and youth alike involved in our joint DMC program. Witnessing the shift of negative perceptions that both entities oftentimes have of each other after just a five hour interpersonal experience is extremely promising. This program feeds in beautifully to creating trusting relationships and community policing. Thanks to our Chief of Police, Tony Jones, many of our officers have taken restorative justice training in order to better understand our youth.”
As US citizens we share responsibility for what is happening in Ferguson and around the country. As global citizens we share responsibility for what is happening around the world. Let us put out a call to our policy makers local to global, demanding systemic change. And let us do this by offering solutions and ways to move through these crisis-filled times. One such solution in the area of law enforcement and criminal justice is Restorative Justice.