I applaud the Globe for highlighting the Transformational Prison Project’s exemplary work (“On the road to redemption, and a new reality,” Page A1, Aug. 7). It might be helpful for those not familiar with restorative justice to explain why those who have committed crimes need to explore their own traumas. It is not an excuse — it is a first step to true accountability. It is much easier to sincerely accept responsibility for the choice to commit a crime once the influence of past experiences has been acknowledged. Exploring past experiences also helps participants identify causes and patterns of negative behaviors and change them to prevent reoffending.
This self-exploration is only one part of a larger process. In the prison restorative justice program mentioned in the article, participants also examine the impact of their crime on victims and meet with a panel of crime victims. This accountability is missing from our court system, which does not require defendants to acknowledge the harm they have caused.
This approach works. Where restorative justice is used as an alternative to the courts, studies have shown that these programs lead to higher rates of victim satisfaction and lower rates of reoffending.
The writer is the Touroff-Glueck Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.