The Little Book of Restorative Justice, by author Howard Zehr, is published by Good Books, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc, a Delaware corporation. The book offers a concept to navigate America’s current criminal justice system more effectively by involving all parties (criminal, victim and the community) more inclusively to meet the needs of everyone involved.
American jails and prisons are woefully overcrowded, we house more people convicted of criminal offenses than many other countries — perhaps all other countries. Overcrowding has necessitated early release programs for those serving sentences for non-violent or more minor criminal offenses. Still, many Americans are uneasy when they hear about prisoners being released before serving out their sentences.
Personally, I worry less about these early releases as a concept, and more about what sort of counseling and rehabilitative services are offered those housed in penal systems across the country. Because, face it, relatively few prisoners, compared to the total number who are incarcerated, have been given life sentences without possibility of parole. Most people who are incarcerated will, at some time in the future, be released and return to society, either by serving out their sentences, being granted parole or having been identified as an early release candidate due to overcrowding.
Undoubtedly the issues surrounding the American criminal justice system are complex, to say the least. And there are no shortages of opinions among American citizens, law enforcement personnel, politicians and special interest groups about what those convicted of crime in this country deserve in terms of punishment.
Restorative justice as a concept is not intended to replace the current justice system, rather to complement it. The concept focuses on the needs of those accused of criminal acts as well as those victimized. I found this concept intriguing, because as I see it, I don’t understand how putting a person in a cell with relatively little human contact and (in many cases) no counseling or positive reinforcement can possibly result in the inmate being released into society a better person. The concept of restorative justice was developed in the 1970’s with the intent of correcting weaknesses in the legal system and to also build on some of its strengths. Of particular interest to me is the concept of assisting the accused, those victimized and other community partners to initiate discussion with the intent to not only help the victim to grieve their losses, express how they have been effected and find answers to their questions, but also help the accused to understand the harm they caused and allow them the opportunity to accept responsibility for their actions and try to find ways to repair the damage they have caused (to the extent possible). This seems like basic common-sense practice to me as we are taught growing up that when we have done something wrong, we are to acknowledge it and try to apologize and repair the damage, if we can. I think not only serves victims and may bring some peace to them to work through this process, but it might also benefit those guilty of the crime, as well, to feel compassion for those they’ve wronged and provide them a starting point for positive personal growth, rather than simply tossing them into a cell, throwing away the key and leaving them to grow further isolated, depressed and disaffected.
There are many other titles available in the series. Rather than type them all out, here is an image from the book listing them. I will be reading some of these other books in the future. My college degree is in Criminal Justice Administration, so it’s an area of particular interest to me. However, I would encourage those in other fields to consider reading a few of these, as well, as the concepts can be applied to many areas, including discipline in schools (another area of interest for me) and general conflict resolution in many facets of human interaction at work, home, etc.
I highly recommend The Little Book of Restorative Justice to anyone with an opinion on the subject — which, face it, is all of us. This 100 page book is brief, with clearly defined concepts and will not take long to get through for the average reader. I would love to see this title on the required reading list for high school and college level Introduction to Criminal Justice course syllabus in every American educational installation. I think it is that good and that it is imperative to offer an alternative theory of what the criminal justice system can be to those who may well one day be employed in one sector or another of this system.
Howard Zehr received his BA from Morehouse College, his MA from the University of Chicago, and his PhD from Rutgers University. He is widely known as the grandfather of restorative justice and is known worldwide for his work in the field, having spoken about and trained others in the topic throughout North America and in more than 25 countries worldwide. He is the author of many books on this topic, as well as others.
Connect with Good Books: Website
Connect with Howard Zehr: Amazon Author Page
Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of this title was provided for purposes of review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are 100% my own.
© 2015 – 2016, Beauty Brite. All rights reserved.