Restorative Justice Theory and Practice – Problem Statement

This is from a book by Theo Gavrielides called Restorative Justice Theory and Practice. I had some contact with Katy years ago. She lives near Vancouver.

[Katy Hutchison remembers a magical evening, celebrating the last few hours of 1997 with her husband, Bob McIntosh, and a few close friends at their home. “At one point, I looked around the room at everyone and I thought:  There is no place on earth I would rather be at that particular moment”, Ms. Hutchison recalls. As midnight neared, however, Mr. McIntosh became worried about a rowdy house party down the road where he knew the owners were away.  He went over with a few of their guests to try to calm things down.

“They walked out the door and that was the last time I ever saw Bob,” Ms. Hutchison told a rapt audience of 500 high-school students… Mr. McIntosh was killed during a sudden, savage assault by two local intoxicated 19-year-olds. Resenting his suggestion that they close the party down, one knocked him out with a single punch. The other man, Ryan Aldridge, delivered five fierce kicks to his head. An artery to Mr. McIntosh’s brain was severed and within minutes, he was dead, leaving Ms. Hutchison and their four-year-old twins.

In the spring of 2002, Mr. Aldridge admitted his involvement to an undercover agent, and was arrested. He refused to repeat his confession, however, until police played a tape from Ms. Hutchison imploring him to accept what he did and seek forgiveness. There have been too many tears shed since for anyone to doubt Mr. Aldridge’s sincerity… The two have met twice face-to-face.  He has consistently expressed deep remorse over his actions. Ms. Hutchison calls their first encounter the most intense human experience of her life. Last month, she spent five hours with Mr. Aldridge…reporting happily that there was “a twinkle in his eye” when he was not overcome by the guilt and regret still ruling his emotions. “There was a salvageable person who wanted to move ahead with his life and who was remorseful,” Ms. Hutchison said.

Mr. Aldridge is now serving a five-year term for manslaughter and hardly a day goes by when Ms. Hutchison does not think about him and wonder how he is doing. He is almost part of the family.  At a recent meal, she wondered what Mr. Aldridge was eating in prison.  Her second husband likes to joke that Mr. Aldridge is his wife’s third child.

To critics who question her forgiveness of the man who took her husband’s life, Ms. Hutchison said, “Anger is a dead end.  We do have choices…I chose to move ahead and I am going to help Ryan move ahead too…Not one thing remained the same for me, except I had two young children and the next morning they wanted Cheerios…I had this feeling I was the only one in control.  I thought: how am I not going to make my life about this?” Many in her school audiences are stunned by her compassion. “They can’t understand where I am coming from,” she said. “But when I look into my children’s eyes, I am always reminded that everyone has to be given a chance”]1. The experience of Ms. Hutchison is an example of a case managed by criminal justice systems around the globe using the ideology of restorative justice (hereafter RJ).