Punishment Perpetuates Problems – Grace Recreates Wholeness

prison-barsMeeting people in their need is a Jesus way of being in the world. Widening circles of inclusion and seeking relationship over revenge is the way Jesus taught and lived. Why is it then that so many Christians are enamored with the punishment model of discipline?


In recent years, researchers have discovered that with even the most recalcitrant behavior, the approach of restoration over reprimand produces more lasting results in changed behavior for the better.


A program of restorative justice was first introduced in Oakland at Cole Middle School in 2006.

The school was slated to be closed due to low test scores when it started a restorative justice pilot program. In the three years since embracing the practice, suspensions dropped by 87%, violence decreased dramatically and expulsions became non-existent. The district took notice and in 2009, they overhauled their system and made restorative justice the new model for handling disciplinary problems. In 2011 they hired a program manager and created a system to roll it out to all the schools in the district.


What Is Restorative Justice?

Restorative justice is a revolutionary program based on respect, responsibility, relationship-building and relationship-repairing. It focuses on mediation and agreement rather than punishment. It aims to keep kids in school and to create a safe environment where learning can flourish. And it appears to be working incredibly well.

For the complete article see: http://www.weareteachers.com/hot-topics/special-reports/restorative-justice-a-different-approach-to-discipline


The axiom, “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” just doesn’t make sense. There is increasing clarity that punishment returns more negative results than positive. Trying to prevent negative or destructive behavior among youth requires a more creative approach than intimidation.


There is a practice among some law enforcement agencies called “Stop, Question, Frisk.” It seeks to nip negative behavior in bud among youth.  Instead of decreasing the odds that youth might engage in criminal activity, research has demonstrated it an increase in petty crimes by youth who have been subjected to this practice, especially if those youth have never exhibited any criminal behavior. Intimidation does not encourage relationship building. Intimidation communicates disrespect and disregard. Why should youth have respect and regard for authorities that can use the authority of their position in society to be disrespectful? We reap what we sow.


Jesus shows us a more perfect way. Jesus shows us the way into relationship through grace. Jesus sees the humanity and divinity in other people, perhaps because he embodies both. We are invited to see with the eyes of Jesus, to embody our humanity and divinity as fully as we can so we are able to see more clearly the humanity and divinity in our fellow travelers.



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