As residents who live in the Boston area know all too vividly, the lives of four people were lost and many others dramatically changed during the attack on the Boston Marathon spectators in a horrific act of domestic terrorism two years ago. Now we come to the culmination of that event and we all wait to see justice served. The question is what will that so called justice look like?
I know that many will call for the Death Penalty for the young man accused of the crime should he be convicted but I would argue against putting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death for what that irreversible action would do to us. I’m well aware of the case for death, it’s right out of the Old Testament verses from Leviticus 19-21, “’If a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him: 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him. 21 ‘Thus the one who kills an animal shall make it good, but the one who kills a man shall be put to death.…”
But there is another passage, “Matthew 5:21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER ‘ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22 “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.…”
Let’s put Biblical study aside and speak about another form of justice, one that seeks to heal rather than punish. What good is a life for a life, what will it restore? Certainly executing the young man will not bring back the dead. It will not heal the wounds of his victims. Yet there is another way. RJ (Restorative Justice), that alternative to State sponsored crime and punishment. RJ seeks to heal and has been used effectively in African countries as a more Just, less punitive means of redressing some extremely horrendous crimes. The following is an excerpt from my Novel “The Voyages of Achmid Huchmid and Folletti” that speaks about RJ.
““Ah yes, this is one of my favorite stories about humans. First I must give you a quick African history lesson. __ Once there was this African nation called Rwanda that underwent a horrible genocidal civil war. Twenty years ago, a mass murder destroyed the Rwandan society. The genocide was sparked by the assassination of the then Rwandan Hutu president, Juvenal Habyarimana, whose plane was shot down. In the hundred days that followed, some Eight Hundred Thousand Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by the Hutu majority.
Neighbors murdered their neighbors. The genocide did not only take human lives, it destroyed the livelihoods of many families. Victims couldn’t return to their villages. Perpetrators who have been in prison didn’t have a place to go, so officials created six Reconciliation Villages.
Genocide survivors and perpetrators are given the chance to start a new life. Currently there are 60 families living in Mbyo, one of the first villages established. The nonprofit organization “Prison Fellowship Rwanda” supports the villagers.
It has frequently been argued that the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission was committed to restorative justice, and that restorative justice has deep historical roots in African indigenous cultures by virtue of its congruence both with ubuntu and with African indigenous justice systems.
Restorative justice is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of the victims, the offenders, and the involved community, instead of satisfying abstract legal principles or punishing the offender. Victims take an active role in the process, while offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, “to repair the harm they’ve done—by apologizing, returning stolen money, or community service”. Restorative justice involves both victim and offender and focuses on their personal needs. In addition, it provides help for the offender in order to avoid future offences. It is based on a theory of justice that considers crime and wrongdoing to be an offence against an individual or community, rather than the state. Restorative justice that fosters dialogue between victim and offender shows the highest rates of victim satisfaction and offender accountability.__ I think Mos was referring to this story when he mentioned Restorative Justice.” “
Whether you believe in Capital Punishment or not you must consider what State Sanctioned Murder will do to our society because if we condone the taking of life as an act of retribution then how are we any different from the convicted bomber himself?