Resolution on Restorative Justice


4/19/1999

Approved by the 200th Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ
April, 1999

Whereas, Crime in our country is a great source of our misery, leaving victims with physical, emotional and financial losses, communities with fear, taxpayers with huge bills for law enforcement and corrections, and offenders and their families financially and emotionally disabled; and

Whereas, Ancient biblical principles of restorative justice focus on the need to make the victim whole again, while seeking also to repair the damaged community, and requiring restitution and reparations from the offender, with the state as arbitrator (Exodus 22:1-4); and

Whereas, Restorative justice principles are also found in the New Testament, with the pledge by Zacchaeus to make restoration followed by Jesus' response of approval (Luke 19:8-10) and the statement of Paul that as Christians we are involved in the "Ministry of Reconciliation" (II Corinthians 5:18-19, NRSV); and

Whereas, Restorative justice is a foundational principle of our civil court system and has proven to be financially feasible and is promoted in law schools such as Suffolk, and has been successful where it has already been used in resolving some criminal issues in our country today; and

Whereas, Our present "war on offender" system began in 1116, with Henry, the son of William the Conqueror, who changed English law from a restorative to a retributive system by making crimes offenses against the state, for which the offender is punished by the state, with victims, the community and the rehabilitation of the offender overlooked or incidental to the process. 

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED , That the 200 th Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ encourages our churches to struggle for an end to the retributive justice system as we know it and to working instead for peace (shalom) in our communities through restitution (shillum) and recompense (shillem); and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED , That the 200 th Annual Meeting recommends to the churches of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ that restorative justice be studied as to its benefits to all citizens, and that churches help to educate citizenry, including children, and help to implement its principles in local contexts; and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED , That the 200 th Annual Meeting declares its support for the statement of the American Bar Association in urging "Federal, state, territorial and local governments to incorporate publicly or privately operated victim-offender mediation dialogue programs into their criminal justice processes;" and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED , That the 200 th Annual Meeting encourages church members of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ to use their considerable volunteer experience and skills to the benefit of offenders, ex-offenders, victims, and the community in promoting face-to-face meetings between victims and offenders, negotiating restitution agreements for victims, and softening the effect on offenders and their families with participation in kindnesses (such as All God's Children Program of Essex Association), and assistance to the children of incarcerated parents so that they may remain in the parent's care until one or more parents can resume care following incarceration; and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED , That the 200 th Annual Meeting requests the Commission for Mission Development and Social responsibility of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ to study ways in which Massachusetts law can be changed to promote restorative justice in the Commonwealth and compile and disseminate resources for use by local churches and make recommendations for action to the Annual Meeting in 2001.

Submitted by the Executive Committee of Hampden Association to the 200th Annual Meeting