WellesleyWeston Magazine


Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

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Page 151 of 211

not murder or rape, which are addressed by programs elsewhere. C4RJ has begun working with school districts and, in partnership with the Center for Restorative Justice at Suffolk University, with high schools in Charlestown and Fitchburg. Law enforcement and correctional officers can be skeptical, espe- cially those who are older and were traditionally trained. Some have called it "hug a thug" or a "get-out-of-jail-free" card. Chief Wetherbee is not among them. "This is the most profound process I've been involved in in my career," he points out in the film. "It was the answer we were looking for." Wellesley Police Chief Terry Cunningham, who introduced the pro- gram last year, laughed when asked about his department. "Some thought it was 'touchy-feely stuff ' until they participated in circles and saw how it works," he told me. "Now they think it's great and my supervisors have a good feel for which cases are suited to it." "I don't see a downside to this and I do see an incredible upside," says Chief Cunningham. "Most of us do stupid things or make bad decisions when we're kids. If they cross the line one time, they should- n't have to suffer for it later when it comes time to apply to college or a job and they're asked if they've ever been charged with a crime. Most of these kids are not mature. They take risks and don't understand the consequences. This is really about giving them the tools they need to succeed and taking responsibility for their actions. So far, we've had no [repeat offenders] among the six to ten cases we've referred, all juve- niles," Cunningham says. "This is better than diversion programs [which are another option]. If a kid smashes your mailbox, we can bring charges and, if it's the first offense, the district attorney might divert him to community service or put him on curfew, or say he has to maintain a 'B' average. If he fulfills that, the charge might go away but you, the victim, don't get to ask why he did it. You don't have a say or get closure. Kids usually do these things randomly. Victims gener- ally feel better when they realize they weren't targeted." A University of Massachusetts-Boston 2012 study by Jillian M. Furman found that restorative justice is nearly more than six times more cost-effective than traditional justice practices. A national study of restorative justice programs* in 1998 found the rate of recidivism was 18 percent versus 27 percent with traditional cases. C4RJ's ten- year record is even lower: 16 percent. Masachusetts Senate Bill 52, now making its way through commit- tee, would make restorative justice an option for law enforcement and courts statewide. Its lead sponsor is state Senator Jamie Eldridge (D- Acton) who said among the bill's supporters are the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs Association, the 12 C4RJ-partner police chiefs, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, and Lowell Juvenile Court Judge Jay Blitzman. Last summer, Eldridge spoke with inmates at Norfolk Prison. "It was absolutely fascinating. Powerful," he says. "Many were familiar good works "taking responsibility for their actions" 150 W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | s p r i n g 2 0 1 4 *Data from a nationwide meta-analysis of restorative justice programs: http://wcr.sonoma.edu/v1n1/umbreit.html 144-153_WWMa14_good works_C4RJ_v2_WellesleyWeston Magzine 2/2/14 12:50 PM Page 150

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