The prison system based on a retributive justice model is one of the most stark institutional examples of the need to change our vision of who we are as human beings. It destroys human dignity and self-respect, and ironically, pretends to offer security. Yet it is our very dignity and self-respect that make us secure. By undermining these two fundamental qualities of the human spirit, we undermine the possibility of a nonviolent future. But this does not need to be the case. We can draw from Gandhi’s wisdom, holding fast to the notion that with enough time, and enough compassion, anyone can be converted nonviolently. That is to say, we ourselves can convert and transform our negative impulses into powerfully constructive channels. By allowing this process to take its course, as we see in the practices of restorative justice, we evolve away from illusion that violence is necessary in our dealings with others — and ourselves — as human beings. That is something we can turn into an institution on a massive scale. With it, we affirm the dignity of human life and make ourselves more secure, more fulfilled — and even smarter in the process.
See if there is a restorative justice system in your neighborhood schools — or indeed your neighborhood. If not, see if you can get one started (the first step always being finding ways to compassionately convert what may still be negative in ourselves).
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org