Restorative Justice

CALIFORNIA BISHOPS’ HOST RESTORATIVE
JUSTICE SYMPOSIUM

On August 3-4, 2, John Storm,  Diocesan Director of Restorative Justice Ministries,  attended Responsibility, Rehabilitation & Restoration: A Symposium on Crime, Punishment and the Common Good in California.  The event was hosted by Loyola Marymount University, in Los Angeles., with representation from all 12 California dioceses.  Archbishop Gomez (Los Angeles) and Bishops Ochoa (Fresno), Soto (Sacramento), Blaire (Stockton) and Garcia (Monterey and Chair of the CCC Restorative Justice Committee) attended and personally participated in the symposium.   The California Catholic Conference sponsored this event with the goal of preparing a Call to Action to examine California’s Criminal Justice System.  Attendees included people who are affected in any way by crime:  victims.  offenders and the families of victims and offenders, religious leaders, government officials, and leaders of community based organizations.

After an opportunity to meet the speakers at a social gathering on the Loyola grounds, the Symposium began with a Friday night prayer service in the Sacred Heart Chapel.  After an opening prayer service and welcoming statements, a choir began to intone the ancient hymn Lux Aeterna, while crime survivors read a litany of the names of crime victims.  Bishop Garcia then led the congregation in prayer followed by a reading of the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Participants were then introduced to Azim Khamisa and Ples Felix who provided a keynote address in which they told of their own compelling personal experience of crime.  According to the website for Mr. Khamisa’s Forgiveness Project:

In 1995 Azim Khamisa’s only son, Tariq – a 20-year-old student – was shot and killed while delivering pizzas in San Diego. His killer, Tony Hicks, became the first 14-year-old to stand trial as an adult in the state of California. He received a 25-year prison sentence.  Azim, alongside Tony’s grandfather and guardian, Ples Felix, now devotes much of his time to promoting the vision of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation – an organization committed to “stopping children from killing children”.

After the gripping narration of the pair’s efforts to stop the violence that disrupted the lives of their children and themselves, others approached the podium and shared brief statements of their own experiences using stories and poetry, before the service concluded with a final blessing and the hymn “God of Day and God of Darkness”. 

On Saturday morning, attendees heard Keynote Speaker, the Honorable Gail Brewster Bereola, offer a primer on restorative justice, using p examples from her experience on the Alameda Superior Court bench.  Noting that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has embraced this approach, Justice Bereola described  Restorative Justice as an enlightened approach to  transform society's response to crime from a paradigm of retribution and punishment toward one of rehabilitation, restoration and reconciliation.  The California bishops hope to reach all Catholics with the major points of this approach (see sidebar).

Sidebar or box:

  • 3  assumptions underlie restorative justice:

When people and relationships are harmed, needs are created

The needs created by harms lead to obligations

The obligation is to heal and “put right” the harms; this is a just response.

  • 3 principles of restorative justice reflect these assumptions:  A just response…

Acknowledges and repairs the harm caused by, and revealed by, wrongdoing (restoration);

Encourages appropriate responsibility for addressing needs and repairing the harm (accountability);

Involves those impacted, including the community, in the resolution (engagement).

Following the keynote, participants were invited to participate in facilitated discussions following presentations by three panels, representing the voices of public officials and policymakers; voices of victims and offenders; and voices of community and religious organizations sharing best practices.

Small groups were selected to sit together so that each table represented all the different voices present:  .  Issues discussed included Treatment of victims; Impact of crime on communities; State’s realignment of jurisdiction; models of restorative justice.

The Symposium concluded with a call to action for our state and faith leaders to take responsibility for the prevention of and response to crime and violence using restorative justice practices.  If you would like more information or would like to participate in the ministry of restorative justice, call John or Ana Maria at (707) 544-9080.