Toward a restorative justice Detroit
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 might argue this is because we are a city without much financial capital and/or because there are too many guns on the street. Although there is truth in both 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’s that we have a relationship problem.”
There was a time when we did not go to the police to solve problems in our communities. Instead, we would gather with the people in our communities, with our cousins and elders. Together we would solve conflicts in our communities.
There was a time when the focus was on listening to what people said had happened and working with the people who had been impacted to resolve the problem instead of forced separation and punishment. There was a time when elders guided younger generations and younger generations worked with elders to maintain the community.
Now is a good time to work not only to resolve conflicts after they occur, but to create spaces for healthy relationships that will mean fewer conflicts. Now is a good time to recall older practices, to build relationships with our neighbors and to rediscover 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 our/their own communities to bring healing to the people 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 (see “Looking for real justice” in the Dec. 9, 2010 Metro Times), 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 Speakers Series on 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.
On April 27, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., we will be hosting a gathering for restorative justice practitioners to come together to learn from each other and create a vision of how to make Detroit into the restorative justice city in the United States. Grace Lee Boggs will begin the day for us by sharing her vision.
If you have questions about the restorative justice work happening in Detroit or want to become involved, contact us at email@example.com.
Together we can make this vision come to life, one relationship at a time.