Religious Organizations Involved in Restorative Justice Programs
Published 03 Mar 2017
Crime has always been a major problem in the society. Each year, the rate of people committing crimes keeps on increasing. Who are among those people who are able to commit the said crimes against society and against themselves as individuals? About 20% are juvenile delinquents [meaning they are less than 18 years of age]; 30% are women and about 50% are of men. Among the men and women who are currently incarcerated among different prison homes 40% are new to the crime or first timers to defile the law while the rest 60% are of second or even third timers (Sullivan, 2001, 34). What do these details pertain to? That there are many people who have already committed crimes that simply do not change their path as to how they are living their lives.
Most likely, they are already incarcerated, then released for some time, then again they do something wrong and then they go back to the prison homes. As for this case, everything turns out to be a cycle for these particular individuals. This is also the reason why decreasing the rate of crimes committed each year is quite impossible to happen.
To answer to the said needs, several social movements were created in support if the organizations that are pre-arranged to help the incarcerated inmates realize their wrong doings and thus change their ways for better cause in the society. One of the procedures was identified as individual reformation. It was not only the government organizations and other independent groups that aimed to support this movement. In America specifically, the restoration movement for the incarcerated individuals have been strongly encouraged. As for this matter, religious groups have also tried to help in the personality changing purposes of the organizations. (Weitekamp, 2003, 12)
Within the context of this paper, the impact made by the religious group in the said restoration movement shall be identified and shall be examined well. Their programs and the results of the particular programs shall be observed as to how they deeply affected the personality of the individuals that they tried to help.
II. What Are Restorative Justice Programs For?
Crime offenders have long been believed to have the need of being punished severely for the wrong things that they have done. The victims remain as victims until they are given the justice that they deserve. Treating the at the gravest possible situation has long been recognized by the society as a more responsive way of making the crime offenders realize their wrong acts.
On of the main punishment that the said crime offenders that is currently accepted worldwide is putting the crime offenders within prison homes where they are kept to serve a certain length of sentence depending on their case and then released since it is believed that the situation could be given justice through this process.
As a result, as many crime offenders are already inside the prison cells, many are still coming in and the prison cells are becoming more and more populated. An article entitled “Schools for Criminals” commented this way regarding the said issue:
The prison system does not always quell criminal behavior. “When money is poured into building another prison cell at the expense of rebuilding a prisoner’s self-image, it is often just a prelude to more—and worse—crime,” writes Jill Smolowe in Time magazine. Peter, who has spent 14 years behind bars, would agree with that statement. “Most of my fellow inmates started off with petty crime, then they moved up to property crime, and finally they graduated to serious offenses against other humans,” he says. “For them, prisons are like trade schools. They’re going to come out worse.” (Awake! 2001, 12)
These claim and experiential accounts of those who have been actually involved in having loved ones locked up within prison homes certainly point out that prisoners are rather trained better within the prison homes to become at least more evil than they already are because of the environment that they have to deal with inside.
This is the reason why restoration of individual prisoners is an essential part of the crime-punishment developments. It should be remembered that crime offenders were not originally evil or bad at all. There were simply some circumstances that moved them to become the individuals that they have been when they committed the crimes. Hence, as humans, they too are still capable of changing their personalities.
Religious groups then are the ones that are expected to have a greater involvement in this process aside from the government itself. Religion has always been noted as a social sector that is able to change the ways of people who have been mainly predisposed to doing something awful against the law. How are all these possible? The paragraphs that follow shall examine these specific details.
III. The Involvement of Religious Groups
It is a primary part of the restoration programs that values are incited within the personality of the individuals. Most likely, the most appealing process to the human individual are is to more likely bring them closer to their creator. Some of the crime offenders are not that bad. Some of them are even more determined to change after they have done the crime because of the impending guilt that they feel inside them. Hence, the religious groups who work along with the said program are then created. Some of the said groups include the Iona Justice and Peace Commitment, the Quakers, the Church of Scotland, the Trident Ploughshares, the Prison Fellowship ministries, Justice Fellowship and Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Some of the said groups have their branches spread outside their own states, while others that are just beginning are simply located on their own localities. 9Ahmed, 2003, 14)
Although they consist of different religious beliefs and different system of approaching the restorative program, they all have something in common. They have particular goals or aims, they have achieved something in the said field in improving the lives of the once incarcerated individuals and their plans regarding the programs that they are already utilizing for helping people return to their supposed righteous personalities.
Religious organizations try to at least find a way by which the victims and the crime offenders are reconciled together to fix the rough edges between their relationships because of the crime that has occurred.
They also focus on giving the crime offenders a chance to realize that they were wrong and that they need to be serious enough in repenting from their wrongdoings. Once they are able to realize that they did something wrong, they are helped to realize that they are given the chance to change their ways for the better.
Restoration of the characteristic and the attitude of the person is the main cause of their movements.
It has been reported that one of the main programs that several religious movements apply are regarding the regular prison home visitations. Through this, they try to reach the hearts of the prisoners using the gospel.
Several activities are also suggested for the prisoners, such as craft making to help them create a hobby for themselves to release their stress with.
Counseling sessions are also done regularly, whereas the prisoners tend to tell the pastors of preachers of the religious sectors of what they feel or what they actually wanted to change within themselves.
As a result, there are at least three out of ten prisoners that are dealt with by the religious members who actually change and become better persons.
The following chart shall show the progress report of the religious groups that are involved within the said program as they are mentioned above.
From the diagram above, it could be observed that although the percentage of prisoners affected by the program has not reached up to 50% yet, the progress report suggests that the said procedure of prisoner restoration has mainly received considerable appeal to the prisoners of America within the years cited herein.
their future plans
It should be identified that as the program progresses, the plans of the said religious organizations are planed to have further progress as well. Mostly, the future holds so much for the said movement, as the religious groups further enhances the effort that they place upon their mission mainly focusing on juvenile delinquents.
It is obvious that the mission of these religious organizations is focused not only on the realization of the crime offenders of the wrong acts that they have previously done. This is especially concerning the juvenile delinquents that have apparently incurred first time offences that ought to be straightened up.
The performance that these particular organizations performed has mainly affected the way that the freed prisoners see their lives after being imprisoned for some time. As presented within the chart provided, it is undeniable that the plans and the missions of the said groups are carefully carried through.
The success of inculcating values to help the victims and the particular offenders reconcile is considerably a possible expectation in the future. The progress that the groups are making concentrates on this future possibility making it a clear vision of hope for having more individuals who swayed away from being rightfully disposed in life to coming back to their senses.
Psychologists found out that the more pressure given to the crime offenders; the more they are able to commit sins (Coon, 1999, 21). This does not mean though that the crime offenders are not to be punished anymore. The emergence of programs that are aimed in a focus to help them change their ways are not designed to ease their punishment. They still need to realize their wrong doings thus making them capable of repenting upon their committed crimes.
It is only the possibility that they might still be revived away from their wrong disposition in life that the said religious groups focus on. The aim of making them clean again does not take away the justice that they have to serve for the sake of their victims. Chances are they are still accounted to face the consequences of what they have done. The only thing that changed through the progressive application of religious movement in restorative programs is their hope of becoming a person that they once were, a rightfully disposed citizen who is able to abide by the laws of the state and thus able to become a complementary part of the society that is directed to further social developments.
It should be realized that restorative justice programs do not aim to keep the crime offenders away from doing their duty to their victims and that is to serve their years of imprisonment as decided by the law. However, because of the hope of reconciling both parties of the situation, the constant application of restorative programs aims to change the being that the criminal has turned into. Everybody has a right for justice, hard to accept as it is, but crime offenders too should be given a chance to repent and change as the loving God plans to restore everyone else who has swayed away from the law to abide in full obedience once again.
Schools for Criminals. 2001. Awake! Brooklyn New York Publishing, Brooklyn New York.
Coon, Dennis. (1999).Introduction to Psychology: A Study of Behavior and Situational Reactions. Oxford University Press.
Elizabeth Elliott.(2005). New Directions In Restorative Justice: Issues, Practice, Evaluation. Willan Publishing (UK).
Dennis Sullivan. (2001). Restorative Justice: Healing the Foundations of Our Everyday Lives. Willow Tree Publishing.
Elmar Weitekamp. (2003). Restorative Justice in Context: International Practice and Directions. Willan Publishing (UK).
Eliza Ahmed. (2003). Repositioning Restorative Justice. Willan Publishing (UK).