Restorative Justice
Promoting The Common Good and Strengthening a Just Public Order

Michael D. Pfeifer
Reproduced with Permission

In the pastoral statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration, the Bishops present a synopsis of the staggering statistics relative to crime, conviction, and imprisonment across our land.

These statistics can seem overwhelming. The predictions of penologists for the future are not encouraging. These challenges alone urge us to a new way of thinking and acting. To help bring about these changes in thinking and in acting, there needs to be more emphasis placed on restorative justice. Justice involves right order. Restorative justice involves the return to right order, effected through the acceptance of responsibility, the assignment of appropriate punishment and the return or restoration of as many as possible to the human community.

In varying degrees, we all share responsibility to promote the common good and strengthen a just public order based on restorative justice. I present here some proposals that will help all people of good will help to develop this vision of restorative justice. The proposals that I share here have been taken from the recent letter of the Louisiana Bishops in their statement, Crime, Punishment, and the Common Good.

To support the National Victims Bill of Rights and provide resources for victims of crime and their families (material, spiritual and psychological).

To provide opportunities for victims and their loved ones who wish to meet with offenders who are willing to repent and contribute to restorative healing.

To offer continuing education and professional training to the dedicated men and women in the corrections system and to ensure that they receive adequate wages.

To develop juvenile and youthful offender programs which emphasize education, work skills, counseling and, when possible, restoration to the family and community.

To promote creative programs which can reduce the readmission rates.

To provide for the parole of older prisoners and the terminally ill who have served a significant number of years and no longer pose a threat to other citizens.

To plan to eliminate housing of out-of-state prisoners and operation of for-profit prisons.

To reject, in the name of the Gospel of Life, the death penalty as an effective and moral way of dealing with crime. There are other more humane ways of dealing with these cases.

As we work to bring about an attitude and way of acting in accord with restorative justice, we need to remember that it is the love of Christ which heals the deepest wounds and transforms our brokenness so that we all may walk aright in his ways.