“Every study out there agrees that intervention at an earlier stage is far more effective and less expensive than trying to reform someone who had a lifetime of crime,” says Walt Monegan, former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Public Safety and former chief of police in Anchorage in this op-ed on the Anchorage Daily News web site. And, he notes, our criminal
justice system just doesn’t teach people who need help how to live healthy lives. He uses this story from an Ojibwa tribal judge as an example:
A young man, Pete, doesn’t know how to swim so we take him to the pond and tell him to learn. Pete jumps in, thrashes about yet goes under so we jump in and save him. Next we take him to a large box on top the hill, tell him that he has to learn to swim and then lock him up inside the box. After a day or two, we bring Pete back to the pond, tell him he has to swim and throw him in. Pete slaps about, but flounders and sinks, so we rescue him again. We take him back to the box on the hill, lock him up again and repeat that until he learns to swim, his stay in the box will only get longer and longer each time.
The emotional, physical and psychological wounds you describe are deep and painful. To feel better and attract trustworthy people, you need to recognize them when you meet them and to learn to let them into your life. You need to heal from these wounds just as you would from a deep gash to your leg. Learning to love yourself and developing new skills to relate to others takes time and patience, and sometimes requires professional help.
Mathis said he’s even applied the restorative justice principles he’s learned to his own family dynamics. It’s allowed him to break a cycle of acting out and blaming others that could have easily led to jail. His grade point average is now up to 3.27 and not only has he not re-offended, but he now envisions going to college and studying marine biology at the University of Florida.
“I thought that because I’m from Oakland, nothing good is going to come from out of my life,” said Mathis, before being exposed to restorative justice. “And now, I’m motivated to work harder in school.”