Webinar presenters Jessica Chapman and David Rosengard answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Responding to Animal Crimes through a Restorative Justice Approach. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: If there are no current mechanisms to practice restorative justice in our jurisdiction, how do we do this? Is there a way to make it happen through civil law, through mediation? What are your recommendations?
Jessica Chapman: I can take that one, and I’m sure David has ideas to supplement it. There are quite a few independent organizations that advocate for restorative justice and provide handbooks. For instance, there’s the Restorative Justice Network that has a handbook. It has a religious background, which is why I didn’t include it in the reading list—I wanted to make the reading list secular. The information the Restorative Justice Network has regarding healing and its Prison Inmate Healing Program is extremely informative. Restorative justice advocacy groups work to empower communities to reach out and access the groups’ resources that have already been established. Especially if restorative justice has not been implemented into a community’s court system. Communities may be independently able to facilitate a restorative justice process between the victim and transgressing individual, if those parties would like that option. That process wouldn’t be part of the court system or court records, but it may still provide healing for the individuals that were involved in that crime. So, there are independent resources. But, I think community members who want to advocate for restorative justice may want to talk to their legislators, talk to court systems, bring up these ideas, and get the attention of their representatives. This communication and collaboration would be important in terms of institutionalizing these programs so that reconciliation between parties who are involved in a crime is not a community’s burden to create and promote, in order for the community to pursue its own healing.
Audience Question: What happens if the victim’s family or, in this case, the owner of the animal, as long as they’re not the offender. What happens if the victim’s family doesn’t want to participate and wants retribution instead?
David Rosengard: This is an issue that comes up in the context of victim rights law, that infrequently. There are a lot of situations, where victims want a range of effects. Sometimes it’s retribution. Sometimes they just want nothing at all out of the offender. Sometimes they want specific healing needs. So, the way that work gets resolved in the context of restorative justice is, just like I said with the offender, if you don’t want to participate, you don’t participate. If victims, victim families, etc. don’t want to participate in restorative justice conference, they simply wouldn’t. There would still be the possibility of a veterinarian, someone with knowledge of animal experience, bringing the offender’s attention to the suffering at harm bay cost. But it wouldn’t be at that point about the victims speaking out at the victim. Or, in this case, of course, their representatives laying out what needs they have. And to take, for example, the New Zealand model, that would simply be part of the pre-sentencing report the Court got. The court would say, “Well, I’ve got a victim impact, I’ve got other information relevant to the defendant, and I’ve got this restorative justice conference where it looked like the victim’s representatives declined to participate. And so, I don’t have any information on what they would identify as their own needs.”
Audience Question: Are there particular types of crimes against animals most likely to benefit from a restorative justice approach? And I would maybe then add onto that, are there certain ones that are most likely not to benefit from a restorative justice approach?
David Rosengard: So, this is a tough question again, because naturally, there is a dearth of data on animal cruelty outcomes and what sort of crimes they solve for. Jessica is actually doing some really exciting work to try to get data on that. It’s big data, so it’s going to be a little while before we get it together. When we think about the types of animal cruelty, though, I think we can identify some that might be particularly amenable to restorative justice approaches. And that’s, in particular, I think cases where the suffering the animal experiences, is not in and of itself, the goal of the offender. There are cases that I’m sure we can all think of, where the perpetrator was causing an animal pain because they enjoyed causing the animal pain. And that may be a tough nut for a restorative justice conference to crack, although I’d like to think that conference could be part of the mental health treatment that it sounds like that offender desperately needs. Contrast that with a scenario where the offender really is operating from a deficit of information or a motivation that isn’t integrally related to the suffering the animal experiences, I think there may be more leverage to be able to separate the defendant, their conduct, and by using a focus on the animal’s needs and experiences identify what appropriate that comes a day.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Responding to Animal Crimes through a Restorative Justice Approach.