Beyond Phenomenal Forgiveness: A Mother’s Relationship with Her Son’s Killer

Victim-offender Johnson Israel

Mary Johnson, 59, spoke with Oshea Israel, 34, at StoryCorps in Minneapolis.

Ginny H., a friend of this blog, shared this story (<—click here) from National Public Radio's StoryCorps. If you missed the NPR broadcast this morning, I urge you to invest the time to read and listen to this story. It begins with the gang-related murder of her son, Laramiun Byrd, and it extends from a conscious decision to forgive the killer to developing a loving relationship with him.

For people who champion Restorative Justice, this can only be a story of inspiration. Involving victims and offenders in restorative conferences early on might increase the likelihood of phenomenal outcomes like these. It is not an easy process, and not everyone in the justice system will even be willing to consider restorative options. But the story of Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel stands as a testimony to what is sometimes possible.

If you’re involved in neighborhood justice, or the local justice system — or, if you are just a concerned citizen who wants something more than orange jump suits for offenders, followed by the release of angry inmates into your community — and, if you think crime victims deserve a time of deep listening to their pain by the offender, the justice system and the community, maybe you will want to investigate local options for Restorative Justice (RJ).

RJ offers no easy grace or instantaneous forgiveness. It entails a difficult process to repair harms done, and to restore victims and offenders to a more compassionate community. The current system of warehousing of prisoners and neglecting crime victims does not seem to be working at all well. Is it time to investigate alternatives?