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RJ Reduces Recidivism & What Are Your “Implicit Biases?”

Research clearly shows that restorative justice interventions are more effective at reducing repeat crime and reducing recidivism than our current mainstream justice systems (Sherman & Strang 2007,  http://www.smith-institute.org.uk/pdfs/RJ_full_report.pdf). This is not to say we don’t need a strong criminal justice system. We do need courts and to protect the community from people with dangerous behavior, but prison without rehabilitation only creates more crime.

Hawai‘i’s prison recidivism rates are consistent with the U.S. national average with about 50% of all the people being released from prison coming back within only two years of their release.

Aotearoa (New Zealand), which provides more rehabilitation in its prisons than most states, has a significantly lower recidivism rate with about 37% of their incarcerated people returning to prison within two years, and the people of Aotearoa would like to see even less recidivism (http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0807/S00086.htm).

In the 1970s there were less than 20 women incarcerated in Hawai‘i. Today the number of incarcerated women is around 700 and includes a disproportionate share of Native Hawaiians. African Americans and Latinos are also disproportionately represented in prisons across the United States. Something is wrong. Injustice is occurring, and recidivism is terribly high. The system has not worked for years, and needs to change.

It seems obvious that implicit biases are driving this injustice of disproportionate numbers of people of color being held in American prisons. In the book Blink Malcolm Gladwell provided the link to a great implicit bias test that anyone can take on line from Harvard University to measure their personal biases. Check it out: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo/ and see what you are biased about–it is a surprising test that we should all take to learn more about our perceptions and beliefs.

“Getting tough with crime” might help politicians get votes, but “getting smart with crime” is what will benefit our communities in the long run.

Restorative processes are wise interventions for helping people harmed by crime to have an opportunity to address what they might need to heal, and for increasing the possibility for rehabilitation of those who committed the crimes. Restorative justice is an example of positive criminology.

In Hawai‘i we have developed many restorative interventions that positively address crime and imprisonment including Reentry & Transition Planning Circles, a process for incarcerated people and their loved ones (http://www.amazon.com/Reentry-Transition-Planning-Circles-Incarcerated/dp/0615529429/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1318274616&sr=8-2).

The circles are a good way to address our implicit biases, promote healing, and help generate rehabilitation.

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