Restorative justice is an emerging field that offers a process for victims to speak and find answers, for offenders to take responsibility and make amends, and for community members and police to lend support. It is being used in schools as well as with collaboration between police departments and the judiciary in some places. Fortunately for Massachusetts, Middlesex County is one of those places. Restorative justice has potential for making a difference in the lives of victims and offenders—particularly our youth—and in making our communities safer.
The original bill (Senate Bill 52 for restorative justice practices) reported favorably out of the Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities and was given a new number—Senate Bill 2078. It is currently in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. For someone who wants to support this bill, it is a good time to call senators and representatives to let them know this is important. The bill defines terms, sets parameters around its use, and establishes an advisory committee who will report to the governor about best practices.
The original bill was sponsored by Senator Jamie Eldridge of Acton, where Communities for Restorative Justice(C4RJ) has had success—they serve towns in Middlesex County such as Acton, Boxborough, Concord, and Bedford, to name a few. The panelists who spoke in favor of the restorative justice bill at the State House briefing early last month were Middlesex district attorney Marian Ryan, Bedford Chief Robert Bongiorno, and Judge Hon. John Cratsley (retired).
To learn more about restorative justice, information and resource lists and links can be found at the Peace Alliance: peacealliance.org/action-alert-sb-2078-support-restorative-justice-in-ma/, and Do Peace: dopeace.us/page/rj-resources?xg_source=activity. The url for C4RJ is: www.c4rj.com/.
Brenda A. Nolan