Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference.
“Restorative justice” hit the big time last week when NBC’s “Today” show featured a couple whose daughter had been shot to death by her boyfriend.
These parents had decided to forgive the perpetrator and helped negotiate his prison sentence in – and we’re not kidding here – “an alternative to a criminal trial.”
The gist of the report was that the murderer had convinced the victim’s bereaved family he was really sorry, and they felt better for having forgiven him. The parents helped negotiate a 20-year sentence for the killer, rather than life in prison.
I did a little Internet research and discovered that “restorative justice” was being pushed by Prison Fellowship, which, as far as we can tell, is an advocacy organization for criminals. This outfit has the chutzpah to claim restorative justice is based on biblical teachings. You know: If your ox gores your neighbor’s ox, you have to help him get a new ox. And never mind that eye-for-an-eye stuff.
The Prison Fellowship website says, “Restorative justice requires the system to do more than warehouse offenders. Restorative justice means holding offenders personally accountable. They need to confront the pain they have caused to their victims and take the steps necessary to overcome their criminal behavior.”
This also is pushed by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, which declares, “Restorative justice offers alternatives to our traditional juvenile and criminal justice systems and harsh school discipline processes. Rather than focusing on punishment, restorative justice seeks to repair the harm done.”
This is the sort of arrant nonsense designed to elicit a collective “awww” from the nation’s bleeding-heart fringe. For me, it recalls my days as a federal court reporter. In one hearing a defense attorney, in outraged tones, blistered the prosecutor for saying a criminal should be punished severely. The defense attorney said it was outrageous to talk about punishment, when the purpose of incarceration should be rehabilitation.
Federal District Judge Edward Garcia responded coolly that “enlightened penology” recognized that the concept of rehabilitation was “a failure” and that the only thing that reduced the impulse toward criminal behavior was, in fact, punishment.
Certainly we can recognize the power of forgiveness to ameliorate the suffering of victims’ families, but it’s an alternative available to those families without participation by the state.
In the case discussed on “Today,” the state’s prosecutor agreed to the process and worked out the 20-year deal. This was grossly improper.
The determination of a perpetrator’s fate belongs to the state, which has as its prime duty the protection of citizens. No prosecutor should subordinate this duty to the feelings of a victim’s family. Did “Today” provide any balancing comment from this side of the argument? It did not.
Our prediction: There soon will be feature stories throughout the imitative mainstream media on “restorative justice” and its wonders. Watch for the White House to get on this bandwagon, too.
Enough of comity: We’ve all heard the exchanges. The likes of Harry Reid will say, “I’m sure my morally depraved colleague from the great state of (fill in the blank) is only doing the bidding of his Wall Street masters, but …”
And the GOP senator so traduced will take to the lectern and respond mildly, “My good friend from Nevada is in error …”
It would be refreshing to hear a Republican, having been accused of racism, sexism, homophobia and – worst of all – insensitivity, reply something like: “You, sir, are a liar, a cur and no friend of America, and he who is no friend of America can be no friend of mine!”
Naturally, our president would bemoan the lack of civility, adhering as he does to the definition to be found in The Blind Partisan’s Dictionary:
Civility – n., 1. the collection of social conventions under which a Democrat subjects a Republican to indirect or direct insult, and the latter responds without anger or conviction; 2. a system of social interaction under which a pleasantly shared lunch is more important than personal dignity or ideological consistency.