international restorative justice week : miracles and certainty

It’s so dull when blogs talk about busyness, so I’m not going to… but I am nostalgic for the days when i had time to post, and even to think through things of depth… sigh.

This week is International Restorative Justice Week. Last week on Australian Story, Kerry Tucker told her story of restoration back into the community after being incarcerated for seven years. She’s currently finishing her PhD and lecturing at Swinburne University. It’s a remarkable story and she’s an inspirational woman. What I found particularly moving about her story was how much of a struggle she found re-entering the community post-imprisonment, even though she is a strong woman with exceptional communication skills, family support to fall back on and educational qualifications. She said herself, ‘After a few days out, I just wanted to go back to prison’.

I despair that the system is so stacked against rehabilitation that even someone like her found post-release treacherously difficult.

Back when we first started throwing around the idea of communal justice, we did a spider map of the issue – trying to work out what the trigger points were within the whole system of communal justice. If you want to shut down a prison, you need better rehabilitation; if you want better rehabilitation, you need to win over the Herald Sun newspaper so that they don’t sensationalise the ‘luxuries’ of prison life [like education, healthy food, constructive employment opportunities]; if you want to win over the Herald Sun, we have to become a community that doesn’t get sucked into one line answers and headlines that feed into our perceptions about the world; if want to become that kind of community, we need to change our thinking about politicians so that we reward those who don’t merely serve our own interests, but who instead advocate and speak on behalf of the ‘them’ I routinely forget to think about. The system is overwhelmingly complicated – and behind every vested interested is barely acknowledged repulsion and fear, fed by stereotypes and generalisations that even I find myself falling into over and over again, even though I spend my days trying to contradict them.

I watched Australian Story last week and remembered again that it’s all too hard. Where do you begin? There’s no point of impact where something – just one small thing – can change.

And then, of course, things sometimes happen – like Aung Sun Suu Kyi being released yesterday. I wonder if this is the only way that a systemically screwed system can be changed – that there needs to be a miracle, somewhere; a crack that opens up in a concrete wall; an opportunity that wasn’t there before. Without that moment everything else is futile. But the miracle itself is absolutely pointless if we’re not waiting or expecting for it to happen, ready to step in and use the opportunity for something bigger. We have to be ready, knowing what to do, and doing it already, just in case the concrete cracks.

It would just be so much better if it wasn’t so precarious. I’d really rather depend on pure hard work than a miracle.