“Everyone looks at us as monsters and losers, but not all of us are. We just made bad choices in our lives. Your support really helps,” wrote Crossroad Bible Institute student Joseph about the personal mentoring he receives from his Instructors. “It helps me to know that people really do care for us incarcerated people.”
Many CBI students are hungry for a second chance to restore their lives and their relationships with others. But without an opportunity to prove that they’ve made a change, any one of these students might become discouraged and fall back into old patterns.
That’s why CBI Instructors are committed to recognizing and affirming the positive changes they see in their students. Whether a student is taking responsibility for past actions or committing to living for Christ in the present, CBI Instructors are there to advise, encourage and offer support.
Recently, an article by the Guardian featured an American judge who is bringing some of these same principles to bear in her courtroom. “Judge Victoria Pratt looks defendants in the eye, asks them to write essays about their goals, and applauds them for complying—and she is getting results,” the article says. Her unique approach to sentencing, known as procedural justice, is currently turning heads because those involved are more likely to show up to court and less likely to recidivate.
Pratt, and others like her, are affirming and respecting the human dignity of defendants while also emphasizing personal accountability for wrongdoing. If defendants take responsibility for their crimes and complete their alternative sentencing promptly, they can avoid a lengthy jail sentence.
Ultimately, Pratt’s procedural justice approach creates space for both justice and mercy to have their day in court. While some of Pratt’s counterparts in the justice system are mystified by her tactics, we as Christians are uniquely equipped to understand why her courtroom is so successful. We have only to look to the cross to remember just what kind of new life can spring up when mercy meets justice.
To read more about Judge Victoria Pratt’s procedural justice approach, check out the Guardian‘s full article here.