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Reducing violence in our neighborhoods

Marcia Lee

Marcia Lee

By Marcia Lee
Special to the Michigan Citizen

For the past four years, Forbes magazine has ranked Detroit as the most violent city in the nation. Some may argue this is because we are a city with very little financial capital. Others may blame the abundance of guns on the street.

Although there is truth in both of these statements, I believe, as my colleague Henry McClendon likes to say, “The problem is not that we have a violence problem in Detroit. It is that we have a relationship problem.”

There was a time when we did not go to the police or courts to resolve anti-social problems in our communities. Instead we would get together with the people in our communities, our friends and neighbors who included cousins and elders.

The focus was on listening to one another. It was on working with the people who had been impacted and trying to resolve the problem instead of punishing the perpetrator. It was a time when elders guided the younger generations, and the younger generations worked with the elders to maintain community.

Now is a good time to recall these practices so that we can not only work to resolve conflicts after they occur, but so that we can also begin creating spaces for healthy relationships that will lead to fewer conflicts.

Now is a good time to build relationships with our neighbors and find creative and community-guided solutions. Now is a time to share our stories and learn from each others’ wisdom.

This is the focus of Restorative Justice: working with people, in their/our communities to bring healing to those who have been harmed by violence and conflict.

We work on healing wounds and holding people accountable for their actions.

In line with this vision and in response to horrible violence, the Detroit Area Restorative Justice Center and Corktown Restorative Justice Network were born.

Over the past couple of years, small groups have been meeting to envision how to work together to create peace zones in our city.

We now have an office in the Hive Space at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.

We host trainings on introduction to Peacemaking Circles and a Speaker’s Series in alternating months. The office is currently open on Tuesdays, if people want to drop in to talk through a conflict or set up an appointment.

With the Corktown group, our focus is on supporting people who live in Corktown, but we are also happy to work with people or organizations in other areas to support them in resolving conflicts as well.

On April 27, we hosted a gathering for Restorative Justice practitioners to learn from each other and together create a vision of how to make Detroit into the Restorative Justice city in the United States.

Grace Lee Boggs began the day by explaining how the administration of justice has evolved down through the years.

She cited “Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of the Prison” by Michel Foucault, in which the author explains how the penitentiaries created after the French Revolution, where offenders were incarcerated to repent of their misdeeds, were much more humane than the guillotines that had beheaded them.

In today’s world, however, where millions are incarcerated, depriving children of parents and adults of partners and costing billions of dollars, we need to create more advanced ways of administering justice.

If you have questions about the restorative justice work happening in Detroit or want to become involved, please contact us at detroitrestorativejustice@gmail.com

Together we can make this vision come to life, one relationship at a time.

Marcia Lee is a member of the Detroit Area Restorative Justice Network (DARJUN).

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