The Mystic Heart of JusticeMay 15th, 2003 | By switmer | Category: 14-4: Cultural Resilience, Media Reviews
by Denise Breton and Stephen Lehman
Chrysalis Books, 274 pages
Review by Sharon Witmer
American legal principles based on English common law reflect the European, Judeo-Christian views of reward and punishment. Regardless of ideological merit, this system is breaking down–prisons are big business, and the recidivism rate is alarmingly high. The retribution model is not working.
Denise Breton and Stephen Lehman bring their humanities backgrounds to bear on the subject of justice and suggest a more holistic approach, which they call restorative justice. A paradigm favored by cultures as diverse as the Cree and the Mennonite, it restores harmony within the community after an individual has breached the system’s values. (See TCJ, Vol. 8, N.1, “Making Peace the Navajo Way”).
Restorative justice requires effort from both the perpetrator and the victim. Responsibility to the community is the foundation of this approach and is greater than any individual concern. Breton and Lehman survey judicial philosophies of world civilizations, including anecdotes of cultural and individual efforts from sources including Ojibway elders in Canada, the Bible, Plato, and Socrates.
I would recommend this book for tribal college students whose own judicial heritage has at its heart the idea of harmonious relationships. The eloquent foreword by Vine Deloria, Jr., is reason enough to read the book..
Sharon Witmer is an American recovering lawyer who studies holistic systems, from the law to sustainable agriculture.