Sunday, January 6, 2013

Restorative Justice in Action

Today's New York Times Magazine contains an in-depth examination of "restorative justice" in action. Author Paul Tullis recounts the 2010 murder of Florida college student Ann Grosmaire, shot by her boyfriend Conor McBride after a lengthy and heated argument. But Grosmaire's tragic death is just the beginning of the story.

"Can Forgiveness Play a Role in Criminal Justice?" asks the story's headline. For the parents of Ann Grosmaire, the answer was an emphatic yes. McBride had turned himself in to police almost immediately, confessing his guilt and remorse. He had been a welcome presence in their lives for three years prior to their daughter's killing. "Before this happened, I loved Conor," said Ann's mother, Kate Grosmaire. "I knew that if I defined Conor by that one moment — as a murderer — I was defining my daughter as a murder victim. And I could not allow that to happen."

After learning about restorative justice from a local prison chaplain, the Grosmaires and McBrides persuaded the prosecutor to work with an outside facilitator to explore alternative sentencing options for McBride, who would ordinarily face either a mandatory minimum life sentence or the death penalty under the charge of first-degree murder. The parents' effort was unprecedented in the Florida justice system, with even the nationally-renowned facilitator skeptical that this method would work for a violent homicide. Typically, restorative justice methods – which involve various meetings between the facilitator, the victims and the offender in order to determine an appropriate remedy – are used in less-serious property crimes. But D.A. Jack Campbell agreed to setting up a pre-plea conference at which the facilitator could employ restorative justice conferencing techniques. Tullis describes the conference and its eventual results in vivid detail.

To learn more about restorative justice, search the Duke Libraries Catalog for titles like The Promise of Restorative Justice: New Approaches for Criminal Justice and Beyond (available at Perkins/Bostock library) or Social Work and Restorative Justice: Skills for Dialogue, Peacemaking and Reconciliation (available electronically to the Duke University community through Oxford University Press). A keyword or subject search for "restorative justice" will return these titles and more; note that many of the titles in the Goodson Law Library relate to restorative justice after international conflicts. For help locating additional resources about restorative justice, be sure to Ask a Librarian.