There was an interesting article in the April 3 edition of the Rapid City Journal (South Dakota) about a program called “Restorative Justice” that brings victims of crime and the offenders who committed the crime together to bring closure and, hopefully, healing.
The program is voluntary and is not geared towards settlement of any claims. The process is peace-making. It gives both sides the opportunity to talk about how the crime affected them, their families, etc. It puts a human face on both the victim and the offender. Restorative Justice takes the centuries old approach of putting people together, with the help of a neutral (or from history town or tribal elders/leaders), to talk opening and resolve their differences. The process is completely voluntary, and does not require the victim to forgive the offender – although forgiveness often occurs.
The story in the Journal article involved a car accident caused by a driver who was high. Two adults, one of which who suffered a severe brain injury in the accident, and their seven year old child participated in the Restorative Justice process with the driver who hit them. The meeting had no effect on the sentence imposed on the driver who caused the accident, nor did it affect any civil lawsuit. What the three hour mediation session did bring about was understanding, closure, and peace. The article can be found at http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/news/local/article_c2928576-5d8d-11e0-b5e8-001cc4c03286.html