(From Press Release) – Restorative Justice International (RJI) today urged U.S. and global justice systems to respond to the rapidly growing COVID-19 virus declaring that inmates, and prison staff, not be forgotten during this pandemic. RJI underscored its support for restorative justice processes which provide an alternative to incarceration for nonviolent offenders.
RJI’s Global Advisory Council (GAC) met via video conference this week to discuss the effect of the COVID-19 virus on prisons and jails around the world. The GAC discussed the impact of the virus on those incarcerated also their victims. Members from around the world serve on the GAC and reported on the effect of the virus on their prisons and jails including 30-day prison shut downs, eliminating of prison visits and closing down key in-prison restorative justice programs.
RJI is particularly concerned with the health and safety of inmates who are incarcerated given the rate of over-incarceration around the world and the overcrowding in most prison systems. “We are not only concerned about the health and safety of inmates incarcerated in our prisons but correctional officers as well,” said Lisa Rea, President, Restorative Justice International. “Our justice systems must respond to this public health pandemic in ways that safely respond to crime while assuring that the needs of crime victims are not ignored. Restorative justice is needed now more than ever.”
RJI is a global association and justice advocacy organization of 6000 members and affiliates committed to victims-driven restorative justice and guided by its Global Advisory Council with key leaders and justice experts from around the world. RJI works with victims of violent crime nationally and globally who support restorative justice and criminal justice reform based on restorative justice principles.
RJI welcomes the decision by many governments to move non-violent offenders out of prison to reduce the spread of COVID-19. In addition, RJI urges nations to re-think how they respond to crime. Non-violent offenders pose no threat to their communities and their release targeted offenders can safely occur and is supported by evidence based research. The U.S. currently incarcerates 2.3 million with almost half a million incarcerated for drug offenses. (Prison Policy Initiative) Current estimates show that 40% of inmates in the U.S. are in prison for non-violent offences. https://time.com/4596081/incarceration-report/
The call to re-examine how offenders are sentenced intensifies due to the growing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic but also due to increased support for using prisons to incarcerate only those inmates who are a serious threat to society. RJI stresses that valuable resources in our correctional and justice systems should be applied and redirected to restorative justice solutions which often stress offender accountability after crime in ways that restore crime victims.
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