Stienstra Interview – Podcast March 29, 2021

Restoration Versus Retribution. Co-hosts Hava Derby and Steve Williamson welcome Dustin Gilman Stienstra, Executive Director of Northern Arizona Restorative Justice, to address the failures of our current justice system and how restorative justice can help break the cycle of crime.

Stienstra explains that communication between the offender and the victim are key, to help the offender understand the harm done. “Often they don’t have a perspective of the harm they caused by their actions,” he says. “Good communication starts with listening, hearing the perspective of the person harmed is impactful. It’s very common for offenders and those who commit harm to minimize their actions. We are changing the culture by allowing them to have a safe place for that conversation, to allow them the space to see themselves. It’s not about casting accusations against you. It’s about helping you understand your actions. Shame and blame are not part of the process.”

Stienstra adds, “Many criminals feel remorse. It’s uncommon not to see remorse. Many are ordinary citizens who have made mistakes.”

In discussing the failure of the current system, Stienstra notes the large number of our citizens in prison – more per capita than anywhere else in the world. Only 3 percent of those in jail have had a trial. The rest have plea-bargained under threat of draconian sentences. “That kind of coercion causes people to say and do things that haven’t even happened. That’s not justice,” he says. “We have people locked up and no one is getting the help they need.”

Moreover, Stienstra believes the concepts of restorative justice go beyond criminal justice. “Restorative practices work anywhere we find conflict,” he says. “Too often, the way people deal with conflict is conflict.”

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