Category Archives: Restorative Justice

Guilty?

via Daily Prompt: Guilty

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Former boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter (Photo: Guardian.com) released after two trials and conviction when a US Federal court set aside the convictions.

Carter was no angel, as a teen he had been arrested for petty crimes, and was later discharged from the military as unsuitable given that he had been up on four charges while serving in West Germany. His first wife divorced him due to his infidelity, a girlfriend accused him of assault. So he wasn’t a perfect citizen by any means (I haven’t met too many perfect citizens).

However, the murder charges for the shooting in 1966 at the Lafeyette Bar in New Jersey were pinned on Cater and his friend Artis. Subsequent trial and later appeals showed that police had not collected crucial evidence (no finger prints, no gunshot residue test), witnesses were inconsistent (until the first trial when they magically became consistent), and witness statements didn’t conclusively point to Carter or Artis, alibi material from Carter and Artis was ignored, the alleged guns used by Carter and Artis were only admitted to the evidence clerk five days after the shooting and arrest. The two main “witnesses” recanted at the beginning of the second trial, but this was dismissed, and Cater was convicted again.

After a campaign by supporters, and including Muhammad Ali and Bob Dylan, in the late 70s the appeal to the US Federal court was succesful and in 1985 Carter was freed.

Rubin Carter was black, what else mattered in getting a conviction? His rights (even if he had been guilty) were trashed by the police and court process. Sadly there are many Rubin Carters across the world: In Western Australia the cases of John Button (1963), Darryl Beamish (1959), and Andrew Mallard (1994) are cases that send a chill down your spine. Button and Beamish were fortunate to escape hanging (Button received a manslaughter charge while Beamish was given life), Mallard served twelve years. All three were exonerated, the appeal process showing that police and prosecution had failed at every turn, and in Mallard’s case had pressured witness statements.

In the UK and Australia until the end of capital punishment there were several posthumous pardons for those wrongly convicted and hanged, in the US it is still going on. It is a sickening thought that one minute you’re minding your own business and the next you’re being wrongfully convicted, and in some countries that would mean also facing the death penalty. Although science has enabled better evidencing of crime, it is still not fool-proof – not even DNA testing, so, although the problem has been minimized it has not yet been eradicated. And this is more than just human error, in many cases of wrongful conviction there has been a miscarriage of justice, willful and determined bias, racial prejudice, typecasting, leading witnesses, evidence tampering, hiding evidence and more, none of which is simple human error. Guilt should not, cannot be pronounced simply because you want somone to be guilty, someone to suffer, to pay. And jumping to conclusions is unhelpful to everyone.

To use the term guilty is a heavy pronouncement and should never be done in haste, for any circumstance. I’ve seen miscarriage of justice while working in schools, churches, community groups, sports teams, government agencies, in families and between friends. The end result is devastating, but more so when it is proved to be wrong. Yet we are all guilty of something, and there’s the clue! Who should rush to cast the first stone? Jesus said that only those without sin/wrong in their life had the right to punish another found guilty, knowing that no such person existed. The point being that we’re all guilty of something, so forgiveness must be a starting point (and which is fundamental to Restorative Justice) and self reflection must be part of the guide in dealing with those who have wronged us. The more we are conscious of our own motivations and actions, our own shortcomings, ย the less we are likely to be baying for the blood of another.

For good measure – a clip of Bob Dylan playing his “Hurricane” song live, the lyrics are confronting.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

 

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Filed under history, life, mindfulness, Restorative Justice

We Can All Restart

via Daily Prompt: Restart

 

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I’m always amazed at the resilience of nature. This section of the Bibbulmun Track had suffered an intense bushfire in 2014, but as we walked it, we encountered nature’s restart or recovery. In particular the eucalypts are hardy and you can see the regrowth along the burnt branches, and the regeneration in the grass trees or xanthorroea in the foreground. We were walking in the spring of 2015, so two winters had washed over the section and helped in the regeneration.

The resilience of nature is not indistinct from trees or animals, all living things demonstrate a hardy capacity to survive, adapt and recover from hardship, even regenerate after near annihilation. No less humans. Surviving cancer, divorce, near death, redundancy, the onset of debilatating health problems, disability and more, are all effects that people have demonstrated not just survival, but a capacity to turn their lives around and start again.

I think one of the greatest examples would have to be Nelson Mandela, who determined a change in his political goals and style, and in how he would lead. As he sat in prison on Robben Island (Mandela was incarcerated in a number of prisons, but spent most time at Robben Island) he determined that he could not continue as he had begun, but rather, he needed to let go of bitterness.

Mandela said ย “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

And, not unlike the regrowth of the Eucalypts after a bushfire, Mandela experiences a personal regrowth by letting go the past, and letting go the potential attendant bitterness and hatred that, he acknowledges, would cripple him and indeed, imprison him. He lets go. He literally blooms. And the result is recovery, he restarts his life and becomes a gift to his own people, and in the end a gift to all peoples.

We all need to review our lives, we all need to attend and be aware of what we need to let go of lest it cripple us and therefore determine our lives in the negative.

We all have the capacity to restart, and constantly.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under bush walking, community, environment, life, mindfulness, nature, Philosophy/Theology, psychology, Restorative Justice, self-development

Fightback

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Photo of London, BBC, news.bbcimg.co.uk

I’ve already referenced the environmental ethics group in Ecuador. But more recently, I’m heartened by the action of a group of lawyers known as Client Earth ย https://clientearth.org

Well, Client Earth have had their third victory in court against the UK Govt. in three years in relation to illegal levels of air pollution. A stunning achievement, and hopefully more to come. It is wonderful to have such a boundary rider active in a world where governments are captive/vulnerable to business and political interests that could not care less.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under community, environment, life, nature, Restorative Justice, Science

Conversant With Nature?

via Daily Prompt: Conversant

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One of my favourite places, the main beach at Augusta, clean, pristine, and great for everyone. There are dune protection programs, a series of specified paths, signs about protecting the Sand Pipers who breed there, and also for the possums too. The State govt recently imposed a ban on plastic shopping bags, and the community are supportive of that goal. The problems are few here, mainly the threat of bushfire, or the one or two people who flout the accepted behaviour for using the beach, river, or the forest trails.

I may not be fully conversant with all things environmental science, but I do feel conversant with nature, for me there is a sentience, a relationship with all beings. The result of that sense of relationship is more than just awe for nature, I have a respect for and desire to engage with nature. The interdependent relationships we survive with and thrive on are finely balanced and require care and attention. Any loss is more than just regrettable, it is permanently damaging, and in some cases, cataclysmic. Plastic islands in the ocean, plastic sand (grains of plastic) in the Mediterranean, marine and terrestrial creatures bound or damaged by fabrics, salinity, air pollution, and more, are a major concern.

As we continue to battle human rights and have made sweeping changes in some areas of human rights, it seems that we are not yet conversant with the rights and needs of nature across the world. Time is short, and nature needs us to be conversant with its needs now and its future. The irony is, the UN are in dialogue over space law, especially the treatment of the Mars environ by the Mars One team, yet we haven’t really ironed out a binding agreement on earth that gives nature a voice of its own. Ecuador has already stepped up (in 2014) and shown the way: “We the people assume the authority to conduct and Ethics Tribunal for the Rights of Nature. We will investigate cases of environmental destruction, which violate the rights of nature.” (Prosecutor for the Earth at the first International Rights of Nature Tribunal in Quito, Ecuador, January 2014). A sign of hope.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Filed under beach, bush walking, community, Country, environment, life, nature, Restorative Justice, Science

Who do you Judge?

I read “The Shack” years ago, and more recently re-read it as part of a book/study group. I recently watched the movie, which I thought encapsulated the book really well, in fact better than the book in some ways. It is a story, an allegory of sorts, of human meets the trinity in the midst of tragedy and grief. But whether or not you hold to the christian faith (and if you do, it is refreshing because it breaks down racial and cultural stereotypes that have been distorted and politicised) it doesn’t matter because (for me) teh penultiamte scene is the scene where Mack meets Wisdom (Sophia) and she calls him on blame, projection, and judging. Mack is consumed by grief, anger, and blames God for the death of his daughter. His consuming feelings are destroying his relationships. this excerpt from the movie is powerful in that we are confronted with our desire yet incapability of true judgement. From a Buddhist perspective, it would lean to non-harming and non-attachment.

The point is, we all tend to judge, we all blame, but can we step aside from this? Forgiveness doesn’t bring back the dead or undo the negatives in our lives, but Wisdom asserts that we can transform, simply through forgiveness, which doesn’t change events in the past, but sure gives positive opportunity to move on into the future. This is a must for every justice system, every community group, every family, every individual. Restorative Justice, at its core, ย is founded on this principle. When we let go of the bile and hate, when we realise we cannot get better by punishing others or getting revenge, then there is an inner tranformation, which is also lived and shared outwardly. Forgiveness isn’t giving a free kick to someone who has wronged us, it is letting ourselves off the hook of anger and hate, it unblocks us and sets us free to live. I’ll let you know when I’ve perfected the art of not judging, but for now I’m in training.

(Video: Youtube, The Shack, Judgement)

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under Alt-Religion, community, life, Philosophy/Theology, Restorative Justice, Spirituality