No country incarcerates more people than the United States. It’s a tragic aspect of a uniquely American story, one rooted in a history of racialized violence. And the same factors that sociologists say drive violence — shame, isolation from community and family, financial hardship and exposure to violence — are exactly what prisons reinforce.
Even as the criminal justice system continues to lock up more individuals, that same system does little to help victims, rehabilitate offenders or address the collateral damage to the families of those who become enmeshed in the system.
However, a small but growing number of programs around the country are showing how restorative justice can be an effective alternative to the seemingly endless cycle of crime, violence and punishment – bringing healing and resolution to victims and perpetrators alike.