Thank you for the opportunity to review Dispelling the Clouds. Your storytelling is captivating and draws the reader into the place and time of the event being shared. At times I could "see" the surroundings, eg. the fish tanks as well as their contents in the lifer's lounge.
When I started the book and saw that forgiveness would be a focus my first response was Oh no! I have seen forgiveness being a requirement of participating in restorative justice processes. The participant, regardless of their role in the situation, must first have their "come to Jesus" moment before they can continue. Too often the emphasis is on a religious conversion/experience rather than supporting someone in healing from the harm they were caught in or perpetrated.
As I continued through the book, I was relieved that you described the complexity and messiness of forgiveness, including the need for all of us to continually struggle with the spaces in which we need to forgive.
Sometimes (often) it is ourselves that require the most forgiveness. As a part of the RJ process it is often an unexpected outcome and I believe should not be an expectation of the experience. Bringing in the interpretation of adaptation was helpful in clarifying and not minimizing forgiveness.
You present the struggle that RJ has with supporting both the people harmed and those who perpetrated the harm. I believe this comes out of poor practice/design as well as the idea of neutrality which was part of early training in the field. Too often RJ practices have taken a "politically correct" approach and therefore erred on the side of those who did the harm. This is neither helpful nor a concept within RJ as I understand it. In fact I see it as abusive. RJ is to help people find healing from harm and not cause more harm. When RJ follows the principles and creates a mutually supportive process, the healing and connections you described in some of your experiences comes to fruition. Too often the system both RJ and regular justice systems emphasizes one side or the other (mostly those who perpetrated the harm).
My favorite line in the book captures this very well, "Victims are nomads in their own lives".
The book is incredibly valuable. I think it adds to the conversation about the one-sidedness of the criminal justice system which excludes "victims" from the process thus causing more harm. It provides new insights into the challenges of RJ and the need to have the process "victim focused/driven". This emphasis is necessary to allow healing to happen for both those who were harmed and those causing harm.
Including real people and your combined experiences with them adds strength and reality. Naming these people would add more for me and I realize confidentiality is critical. It is your story and I respect your ability to protect others who may have been involved and who do not want to be named.
Thank you again for the opportunity to read a very rich description of your experience. I look forward to seeing the final edition. Your voice is an important perspective in the messiness of life.
“And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall,
We cannot pick it up.
There is no way at all!”
- Dr. Seuss