This article was written in November 2009
Could Transformative Models of Mediation and Restorative Justice Have Made a Difference?
By Grace E. Reed
(This is an article that was published at
Yesterday (Nov.30th) a young man, Maurice Clemmons, was shot to death after he shot 4 cops in a coffee shop near
Seattle, Washington. Of course it made headlines, (CNN) evoked controversy, and
brought out the best and worst of many people with opinions and questions. The
main question that seemed to be asked over and over in media and in personal
circles was, “Why was he out on the street?”
This man started a crime spree at age 16, went through a punitive justice system as a young man and was also an
alcoholic. You can find that information in his records. (normal"">Arkansas Post Prison Transfer Board Work Sheet) My question is what
would this picture look like if he were exposed
to transformative models of restorative justice and treatment when he was 16
while in jail? Are you assuming right now he was in a juvenile justice system?
Here are some of his words (found online) in the ‘Brief In Support of Executive Clemency Application’ (Office of Governor Mike Huckabee) he
filled out at age 27 after eleven years in prison. He indicated in the summery
that after a move from Seattle to a crime infested neighborhood in Arkansas---
Symbol"">· I had no friends and I had no social skills.
Symbol"">· I wanted to be part of the group.
I had peer pressure, fell in with the wrong
crowd and went on a crime spree that lasted for 7 months that got me to jail.
I am ashamed. There is absolutely no excuse
whatsoever for my crimes. I was raised Christian.yes"">
Symbol"">· I seek mercy via executive clemency.
Where were the stopgaps when this kid was 16 years old? What happened before he got involved in crime? Where were
his parents? How did his teachers, his community, his church, the social
system, miss the indicators of pending trouble?yes""> These are typical questions that get asked that indicate a
community is in trouble and losing its children.yes"">
According to the report he was put in prison with adults. Was there no
juvenile justice program? Probation checked a box indicating he stay abstinent
from alcohol. Did he get any chance at treatment in prison? He was ADD/HD and
struggled in the educational system. Was there no help for that in the
educational system? The answer to all of this is ‘no’. This kid fell through
many uninvestigated means to his present action, murder of 4 cops, which
impacted a whole community in Washington, and for that matter, in the country.
In 2001 he was back in prison, in 2004 was paroled, in 2004 he assaulted a
police officer and raped a child and he was bailed out. In 2009 he committed
murder and was shot to death on the run. Tragic for all involved!
How much time has to go by before something is done to intervene in cases like this? While I get that not every
criminal can be restored or rehabilitated at a later age, what about the
at-risk youth in our society at ages 10, 11, 12 or younger? What about the root
causes, like poverty, ignorance, and racism impacting children at-risk in the
first place? Where are the gatekeepers? We are the gatekeepers of our children
and we had better find better ways of gate keeping. We are losing our
According to the National Center for
Juvenile Justice and other national sources, statistics show (2006-07)
approximately 93,000 at-risk youth were in some type of secure facility (66%).
The vast majority of juvenile offenders are non-violent 86% male, 60% youth of
color, 88% fifteen years or older, and 62% had at least one prior offence. They
stated that 66% of boys and 74% of girls in the juvenile justice system meet
the criteria for at least one mental disorder. Lack of appropriate referrals
for treatment, disability to navigate social settings ranked highest for the
reason they were in justice. Peer pressure is addressed, and 70% of youth
involved in juvenile justice have learning disabilities and more than half in
detention have not completed the 8th grade.
When these kids are released back out
into the community they mostly go back to the same environment they came from
which are referred to as 'typical barriers' (to success). We who work with this
population know these stats are much higher than what was reported in 2006
therefore my previous statement in previous articles of a 75% recidivism (at
least) is very real. (mediate.com)
According to normal"">Earthtimes.org (Dec. 4th 2009) a report came out
depicting the ongoing trend to jailing youth in adult jails. The Jailing Juveniles: The Dangers of
Incarcerating Youth in Adult Jails in America finds that on an average day
7,500 youth are in adult jails. According to a report released by the Campaign for Youth Justice these numbers
are probably “several times higher.” A federal law to keep youth out of adult
prison has been on the books for over three
decades. Come on society we can do better than this!
Restorative Justice unit budgets have
been cut, rehabilitation has been reduced, education is in trouble, poverty and
homelessness grinds on, addiction and gangs are raging on our streets. Do we
dare believe, we as a nation, have the right to ignore and misunderstand this
mess? We need restorative justice models that are designed to transform lives
now more than ever before. While there are good efforts to that end and we are
making some progress, it is not fast enough. We are losing our children to, as
Dr. M. Rosenberg states, “tragic expression of unmet needs.”
I am in a unique position as an
addiction counselor and a mediator to be able to pull the two disciplines
together to make a difference for at-risk youth.yes""> I did a two year research at a restorative justice RAD unit
(Residential Alcohol/Addiction) in Portland, Oregon with addicted, gang member
boys, ages 13 to 17. I also worked with homeless street kids. The results of
the study can be found at (negotiatingshadows.com).
Today December 2, 2009 restorative
justice units like the 15 bed RAD facility are facing cuts rather than
expansion. We cannot cut a justice process that promises a more holistic
solution to conflict, especially for deeply conflicted people. According to
Baltimore Maryland’s flagship secure treatment center, like RAD, relapse and
recidivism rates are ‘alarming’. (baltimoresun.com)
According to my knowledge we can’t afford to give them a year of treatment,
most kids are out within 3 to 6 months.
What I don’t have are the monetary means to do more to help the
process of getting more RJ units implemented into the justice system, or even
teaching in one, due to budget cuts. Grants have dried up as well.
My second book, normal"">‘Needs’ focused on how I taught drama arts as a tool for
restorative justice using transformative models of mediation/negotiation. The
contents tell the story of how the RAD boys (also street youth) responded to
creative expression education and what they wrote about themselves through
poetry, script writing, short stories and how I was impacted by their
struggles. (Aardvark Global Publishing) The book can be ordered at Aardvark or
negotiatingshadows.com (14.0pt;mso-bidi-font-family:Helvetica"">ISBN 978-1-4276-4477-0)
There is so much work to do to implement
systems that work toward eliminating factors that feed the loss of people,
especially youth. In my first book, Negotiating
Dramatic Events: Conflict Resolution for Addicted At-Risk Youths in Juvenile
Justice, I charted conflicted systems like economic, political, religious,
justice, health, educational, etc. that impact youth within communities and
showed the results when left in conflict. (Portland State University)
For instance when the economy is based
on the current self-centered, defensive, greedy banking system it feeds poverty
at the bottom line level and impacts communities with unmet needs that lead to
child abuse, violence, lack of education, oppression, poverty, racism,
substance abuse and the like. We
had better get that systems are tied in together and need drastically changed.
We can bail out banks and auto industries and can’t afford to help our
find and act on deepening new values that lead to restoration and
transformation of unworkable systems in deep conflict. We must become the age
of transition. We will get there
with continuing united effort toward change.yes""> Mediators are on the cutting edge toward educating the
public to the value of conflict transformation and the power of restorative
justice, but we are challenged to step up the pace. We can help build a society
that places these values before the ones in place now. We don’t have to lose
any more children. Let’s do it!
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