And then it crashed.
From the very beginning, the authors and program directors of restorative justice had always assured me the goal of restorative justice was to provide an equal platform for both victim and offender.
And here I had delivered exactly what everyone had been asking for – a program that assured a platform for victims that now matched the platform of the offenders. I had thought restorative justice was all about equal opportunity of victim and offender – trying to be perfectly balanced. Apparently my program now put the offender at a disadvantage.
The Restorative Justice organizers could not endorse my program and admitted that if an encounter was offender-initiated and offender-directed, it was restorative justice and within the mandate of Correctional Service Canada. However, if it was victim-initiated and victim-oriented, it was victim services and not within their mandate.
My victim friends had been right – the existing programs had been offender-driven program from the beginning. Rene got the gymnasium; I got the classroom. Offenders had all kinds of para-corrections, non-profit organizations – charities that helped with rehabilitation programs; victims had only customer service desks in various offender-driven organizations.
No one had any idea of how one-sided the world of justice appeared to victims.
I became quite vocal about all of this - and eventually did more harm than good.
Then I had an idea - and it still is just an idea. It is a dream and nothing more.
What if we could design a neutral encounter program much like an adoption reunion registry which is a formal mechanism where adoptees and their birth family members can be reunited? These registries exist in countries which practice closed adoption, i.e. adoption in which the full identities of the birth parents, birth family members and the adopting family are not readily disclosed. These Reunion Registries are based on mutual consent and do matches from the information provided by the registrants.
What if the same model were used for victim and offender stories? Where either victim or offender can submit a story that would only be released if there were a match. The possibilities of something like this could be endless....
It wouldn't only attract victim and offender stories of serious crime but that of anyone who has lost their voice. It could be used by parents who have lost the ability to communicate their story to their children. It could be used by someone falsely accused -- or siblings from dysfunctional families.
I still believe in the old fashioned Canadian simple "I'm sorry" that covers a multitude of sins like stepping on another persons toes, but there are times when that isn't enough.
I believe that there are times when a story that is drowned out by fierce opposition needs a safe place to be seeded, stored and then held until it can be safely matched with the intended recipient. We need a StoryVault Reunion Registry.
At this point, this StoryVault Reunion Registry would need to be researched, piloted and evaluated to ensure safety for anyone who would like to participate.
But I think it would be worth it. Once the StoryVault would be in place - we would then need to find a neutral - equal opportunity - program that will facilitate the safe exchange of matched forgiveness embedded stories.
For this we would need the Forgiveness Center. It is such fun to dream....
It was such fun to envision this Forgiveness Center with Cliff. I miss him. He loved the idea of a StoryVault Reunion Registry. It was something we would have used....
When you have a conflict, that means that there are truths that have to be addressed on each side of the conflict. And when you have a conflict, then it's an educational process to try to resolve the conflict. And to resolve that, you have to get people on both sides of the conflict involved so that they can dialogue. - Dolores Huerta