Restorative justice programs focus on accountability.
Criminals learn how to apologize and try to make a situation better.
A South Carolina facility is seeing success with a new program.
The program is being called a step in the right direction.
(NewsReady.com) – Restorative justice is a controversial practice that tries to humanize people in the criminal justice system. Instead of viewing crimes as just a violation of the law, the practice seeks to examine the impacts of the crime to figure out how to repair the harm done. It also forces the perpetrator to actually take accountability for what they did and try to work to fix it. Victims are encouraged to participate in the process.
A South Carolina prison is using the program, and a new study shows it’s seeing some success.
The Turbeville Correctional Institution has a housing unit known as the Community Opportunity Restoration Enhancement (C.O.R.E.). The medium-security facility allows older men serving longer prison sentences to mentor younger inmates preparing to reenter society. The program prioritizes one-on-one meetings and group sessions, so the prisoners can learn how to correct their behavior.
Those participating in the program can spend as many as 15 hours a day outside their cells. Instead of traditional prison uniforms, they wear khakis and blue polo shirts. They receive access to mini-fridges, kitchen facilities, laundry machines, and other utilities that prisoners generally lack.
The inmates are also given more freedom to personalize their own spaces. They can hang up photos and paint murals. The Associated Press reported that one of the mentors, Matt, said the environment allows men time to “let loose and express themselves and their emotions” instead of projecting the “tough guy mentality” that’s necessary when they’re in prison.
If an inmate in the program breaks the rules, they are given additional chores or made to publicly apologize to whomever they may have harmed. They might also be given a writing assignment.
The Vera Institute of Justice carried out a study on the prison and another facility that uses the program. Researchers reported that those in the unit saw a lower violent offense rate, including a 73% decrease in specialized units. For example, during the first year of the study, 15 out of 100 prisoners in the general population control group were involved in violent offenses, compared to six prisoners in the restorative justice units.
The rates of self-harm and overall misconduct charges didn’t really change. Madalyn Wasilczuk, a University of South Carolina law professor, said the initiative is moving things in the right direction.
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