Study: Halfway Houses Don’t Reduce Recidivism

I have no strong comments about this item in the New York Times, except for the fact that it  seems to raise a significant red flag for those of us who call for alternative sentencing, restorative justice and community-based solutions to over-reliance on incarceration.

Are there massive flaws in the process of selecting halfway houses for inmates?


The Roots of Restorative Justice

Sometimes it’s just right to acknowledge the First Nations people who keep Restorative Justice alive.

Native peoples keep alive a tradition of restoring offenders to their communities.  Just as many Christians believe in the power or restoration and reconciliation, many native peoples also sustain a belief in community.  Shown here, in Seattle, WA, a flash gathering comes together to unite in drumming and expressing life’s rhythm.


Finding a place in restorative justice – Georgia State University

If you’re passionate about restorative justice, Atlanta’s Georgia State University is interested in hearing about the work you are doing.

A few years ago, Georgia State University created an online clearinghouse on restorative justice. I’ve been exploring it for a couple of years.  It’s an outstanding resource.

Carolyn Benne, peacemaker, GSU, restorative justice

An avid advocate for Restorative Justice, GSU’s Carolyn Benne calls for input from restorative justice practitioners for the website.

Carolyn Benne worked with GSU’s law school and the school of social work, using a combination of federal funds and foundation grants, to make this project happen.  GSU’s I.T. sharpies helped her with the mechanics. No doubt, Carolyn drew on her business, legal and organizational skills to navigate the inter-departmental politics and launch the site.  Her multiple degrees from Duke University probably came into play, too.

The site has been around awhile, and now it’s time to beef up the base and get serious about the business of Restorative Justice in the southeastern U.S.

The intent of the GSU website is to enhance and strengthen the RJ field by:

  • Sharing knowledge;
  • Explicitly seeking opportunities to connect people and scholars with one another;
  • Exposing users to both knowledge and programmatic activities that might spark creativity, broaden applications of RJ principles and improve RJ practices; and,
  • Offering a social networking activity that strengthens connectivity among RJ people, scholars, and those seeking restorative justice information, especially in the Southeastern US.

Recently, Carolyn Benne wrote to supporters:

“We would like to establish a core of at least 50 initial entries so that we can distribute the site more broadly and have some actual “substance” to share. [Editor’s Note: the site always has included plenty of substance.]  We’re starting with people like you, whom we’ve worked with before, so that we know that the foundation on which we are building will be strong.  Our objective is to form communities of practice and initiate scholarly work from the connections made on the site.

Carolyn Benne, GSU, restorative justice, peacemaking

Georgia State University (GSU) hosts a valuable regional clearninghouse for restorative justice.

A crying need in the restorative justice field is to create a solid database of research which demonstrates the effectiveness of restorative practices as compared to the more harsh practices of the punishment-oriented criminal justice system.

As a reader of, it’s possible you’re not professional practitioner of restorative justice.  But chances are high that you want to help build a structure for peacemaking and restorative practices.  Search your mind and share this message with any professionals who might want to join the GSU network. These might include counselors, lawyers, social workers, law enforcement officers, ministers or teachers. Or even parents and coaches who routinely handle conflicts and want to handle them better.  Consider asking someone to submit an entry.

As Carolyn writes:

It’s very easy to submit an entry.  Just go to the site:, and click on the “share” tab in the upper right corner.  The instructions are right there.  You don’t need to write very much.  A few lines with your perspective are all we’re looking for.

If you have ideas, or would like to learn more about building an outstanding resource for restorative principles, please contact Carolyn.  Here is her contact info:

Carolyn G. Benne
Director, CNCR
College of Law
Georgia State University

Georgians and southeastern U.S. residents have an amazing resource in GSU and in Carolyn Benne.  I hope you will send her your support!


In-depth forgiveness story in NYT is a major boost to Restorative Justice

Seldom do the mainstream media invest serious column inches in Restorative Justice.  Monday’s New York Times broke the long silence in its groundbreaking journalism, headlined: ‘Can Forgiveness Play a Role in Criminal Justice?

Friends, this is an article that screams, “Forward Me!.”

In a nutshell, freelance writer Paul Tullis chronicles the tragic story of two Florida families facing a murder among loved ones.  A teenage son, Conor McBride, shot in the head his girlfriend, Ann Margaret Grosmaire, killing her after 30-plus hours of fighting and arguing in person, on the phone and in text messages.

Conor Mcbride, killed his fiancee Ann Margaret Grosmaire.

Florida teen, Conor McBride, who shot his girlfriend of three years in the head, killing her, is the recipient of family forgiveness.

Parents with deep and abiding faith chose to forgive the slaughter.  There is nothing glib in this story. A grueling process ensued, which is described in the NYT story.  Not a single participant is “soft on crime.”  The hard work of justice that restores is depicted in this complex drama.

The surviving families confront the limitations of a criminal justice system, which is focused primarily on dispensing severe punishment.  In the face of their decisions to choose the painful path of forgiveness, they encounter the shortcomings of the punitive criminal justice system at every turn.

Their decisions to forgive run counter to the prevailing system of severe punishment.

Writer Paul Tullis does not gloss over the ambiguities of a restorative justice approach.  There is nothing simple about this process. But he describes the intensity of the restorative community conference, consisting of everyone touched by the tragedy, including the prosecutor, the families of the son and daughter, a pastor and the attorneys involved in the process.

Tullis is especially effective in describing how the restorative justice process attempts to address the harms perpetrated on human beings who are the victims of crimes.  Giving crime victims the opportunity to be heard, at length, about the harms done to them is a central feature of restorative justice.

As the nation faces the impossibility of warehousing ever-increasing numbers of its citizens, stories about the healing available through restorative processes are certain to gain wider acceptance.  Finding ways of reconciling victims and offenders with each other will be increasingly crucial to the systems we use to seek justice.

The Nuns on the Bus go Round and Round Across Ohio

The snappy headline comes from the Columbus Dispatch  on October 2, 2012, in a report written by Randy Ludlow.

Nuns criss-cross Ohio to advocate for "the least of these" in federal budget.

Roman Catholic sisters board the bus in Ohio to speak our for Catholic social justice teachings, caring for “the least of these” in the federal budget.

Roman Catholic sisters board the bus in Ohio to speak our for Catholic social justice teachings, caring for “the least of these” in the federal budget.

A group of Roman Catholic nuns launched a 1,000-mile anti-poverty bus tour across Ohio on Wednesday to call for a federal budget “that affirms the life of all God’s children — not just the wealthiest few.”

Led by Sister Simone Campbell, who spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC, the tour will take them to Catholic social service agencies across the swing state which stand to lose significant funding if the budget proposals of Republican vice presidential nominee, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) are passed.

Their Nuns on the Bus Tour message  echoes the campaign last year of Sojourners magazine, a progressive Protestant publication, which rallied public support for the idea that a budget is a moral document, because of the values it represents through its funding priorities. Sojourners’ Jim Wallis wrote in his blog, God’s Politics, that the Republican budget proposal “is an immoral document.”

In Wallis’ testimony on Aug. 1, 2011 as part of a call from faith leaders across the religious spectrum urging Congress to extend the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit for low- and moderate-income Americans, Wallis said:

Here is what the debate reveals from the highest moral lens: the House GOP budget wants to extend tax cuts and credits for the wealthiest people of our society while cutting tax benefits for the poorest — including millions of low-income working families with children at risk.

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne wrote in recent column:

Sister Simone points to a study from Bread for the World, a nonpartisan group that advocates on hunger issues, to suggest one useful line of questioning. To make up for the food stamp cuts in Ryan’s budget, the group found, “every church in the country would have to come up with approximately $50,000 dedicated to feeding people — every year for the next 10 years.” Can government walk away like this? Can we realistically expect our houses of worship to pick up such a tab?

I say, “Keep on truckin’ (or busin’), Sister Simone!”

‘How to Settle the Fight Over Some Guano-Covered Rocks’

So reads a headline in the International Herald Tribune, (“the Global edition of the New York Times”) on September 23, 2012.

Reporter Mark McDonald takes a semi-humorous tone in his story of the raging territorial conflict among  China, Taiwan and Japan.  By any standard, the uninhabited real estate is hardly picturesque or post card quality.  As McDonald reports, the islets in disputeare little more than remote shards of guano-covered rock.”

In any mediation or peacemaking project, it’s probably not wise to ridicule the parties or belittle the claimants.  Still, “guano-covered rocks”?   From my comfortable distance of many thousand miles away, living in a culture neither Japanese or Chinese, it’s easy dismiss this as a meaningless, petty dispute.

Not so, according to the combative Asian neighbors.  The claimants say the islets are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and natural gas reserves.  Other analysts view the dispute differently:

The real dispute over the islands is not about oil, gas, sea lanes or fishing rights. Instead, the prevailing emotion is a leftover bitterness from the war, combined with the persistent image of an insufficiently repentant Japan. As the analyst Daniel Sneider told Rendezvous.  “It’s not about territory. It’s not about these rocks. It’s about much, much more. It’s identity, first and foremost. It’s pride.”

As the U.N. General Assembly met this week in New York, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Japan and China to “let cool heads prevail.”

China traces its land claim as far back as the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). This week, Japan stepped up its campaign to win the support of the global community for its claim on the islands.

Even when it comes to “remote shards of guano-covered rock,” disputes are deeply real to the parties involved.