A Catholic Perspective on Restorative Justice
Recently, Pope Francis stated, “God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life.” The Catholic approach to criminal justice reform and rehabilitative justice begins with the recognition of the life and dignity of all persons: those who are victims of crime, but also the offenders who have caused harm.
The U.S. Bishops call for reforms to the criminal justice system to promote the common good, help restore a sense of community, promote rehabilitation and resist the violence that too often engulfs much of our culture.
Restorative justice efforts seek to address the needs ex-offenders have in accessing community support and programs that help them re-enter society in healthy and productive ways. When people leave incarceration they face significant barriers such as homelessness, unemployment, poverty, substance abuse, emotional and psychological stress, and social isolation. Without the proper support to help them succeed, recidivism is likely to place the person in an almost endless cycle that impacts the community and the life and dignity of the offender.
In addition, restorative justice must also address the needs of victims and communities affected by crime and violence. Without proper support, victims of crime are often left with feelings of neglect, abandonment and anger where reconciliation and healing become difficult, if not impossible.
The impact on families based on racial and economic disparities, in combination with the cycle of incarceration, significantly harms family dignity and stability as well as that of communities. Areas of high crime lead to community and family break-down and prison policies that suddenly transfer inmates from one state to another tear families apart. Efforts to support family and communities impacted by crime and violence are an essential part of promoting human life and dignity as are effective reforms of the criminal justice system.
An Introduction to
Professor Mark Umbreit is the Director of the Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. (Video used with permission.)
The Diocese of Santa Rosa
The Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa was established in 1962 and is currently under the leadership of Bishop Robert Vasa, its sixth bishop. It includes the counties of Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma along the Northern California coast from Marin County on the south to the Oregon border on the north. These counties have a combined estimated population of over 953,000. The Diocese includes five Deaneries (Sonoma North; Sonoma South; Napa; Mendocino-Lake; and Humboldt-Del Norte) and is comprised of 42 parishes with over 165,000 parishioners.
Each of the six counties has an Adult Correctional Facility (jail) and a Juvenile Detention Facility. There is one “super-max” state prison, Pelican Bay located in Del Norte County, one secure hospital for the criminally-mentally ill (Napa State Hospital), six California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDRC) Conservation Camps, and three CDRC parole offices located in Eureka, Ukiah and Santa Rosa. A full, current daily count of the number of individuals incarcerated in the Diocese is not readily available, but a partial count from 2008 indicates that the number is at least 4,700. According to a report released on November 4, 2010 by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the recidivism rate for California stands at 67.5%, one of the highest in the nation according to the study of 108,000 inmates released from state prisons in 2005 and 2006. This rate is calculated for inmates returning to prison within three years of their release.
What We Do
Catholic Restorative Justice Ministries ((CRJM) is an office of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa in California. Our responsibility is to minister to all those who have been harmed by crime who reside within the six counties of the diocese: Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma. CRJM seeks to fulfill the mandate established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in their 2001 statement Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration. CRJM seeks to heal the harms of crime by serving three main communities: victims of crime and their families; the imprisoned and those in the process of re-entering society; and the families of the imprisoned.