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Introducing OEN's First Special Issue: Restorative Justice

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Apparently, corruption is increasing in the world. OpEdNews readers, a politically savvy bunch, are probably not surprised. After all, our world is filled with injustice and conflict. Not only is there corruption, but also poverty, racism, misogyny, and sex trafficking. And then there is violent crime, and civil disputes, and schoolyard bullying. Even our own homes are often filled with conflict, sometimes with our spouses, other times with our kids, occasionally with our friends or work colleagues.

Usually, like most news/opinion sites, we focus our attention on the problems. Today, we want to focus on some creative ways of working through them. As befitting an alternative news site, we want to highlight an alternative way of "doing justice".

For those of us living in the United States, "doing justice" is mostly synonymous with administering punishment. We may not literally follow the Biblical edict of "an eye for an eye", but most of us still believe that "the punishment must fit the crime". Indeed, many of us would be hard pressed to even come up with an alternative justice system or even imagine an alternative to punishment.

Yet, such alternative systems have existed for centuries and seem to be making a comeback. A little more than a year ago, I bumped into one such system, a particular approach to restorative justice called Restorative Circles (RC), a system developed by Dominic Barter and his collaborators in the shanty towns of urban Brazil. In the 15 months of relatively intense study that followed, the way that I think about conflict and justice became entirely transformed. Whereas before I only saw conflict as something to be avoided at all cost, I now see its gifts and opportunities. Whereas previously I considered justice and punishment to be inseparable, I now see them as almost mutually exclusive.

If the previous paragraph resonates with you, you're going to love the articles on the site today. If it doesn't, we hope you'll at least be curious enough to see what the fuss is about.

In this special issue of OpEdNews, our first such issue, we want to introduce you to the field of restorative justice. To that end, we've recruited writers and gathered articles about different restorative practices all over the world. We've also striven to represent the flexibility and adaptability of restorative practices by including articles on everything from sibling arguments to genocide. We hope you enjoy them and would be glad to hear your feedback.

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Mikhail Lyubansky, Ph.D., is a teaching associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he teaches Psychology of Race and Ethnicity, Theories of Psychotherapy, and a graduate-level courses on restorative justice. An autobiographical essay of Mikhail's interests in race relations and basketball is available here.

Since 2009, Mikhail has been studying and working with conflict, particularly via Restorative Circles (a restorative practice developed in Brazil by Dominic Barter and associates) and other restorative responses to conflict. Together with Elaine Shpungin, he now supports schools, organizations, and workplaces in developing restorative strategies for engaging conflict, building conflict facilitation skills and evaluating the (more...)

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