Re: [SACC-L] Fwd: Peacemaking: from Global Village News & Resources for Apr...
- sorry this didn't go through before....
Navajos Replace Punishment With Peacemaking USA - Arizona - In a bold
experiment, which is actually a return to traditional ways, the Navajo
Nation Council has changed their criminal code to eliminate jail time and
fines for 79 offences.; It is now requiring the use of peacemakers in all
criminal cases to insure justice, right relations, and to protect the
rights of victims.
The new code is based on the traditional Navajo concept of "nalyeeh,” a
word that refers to the process of confronting those who have hurt others
with a demand that they talk things out. This is where the peacemaker
The Navajo peacemaking session brings the accused and the victim face to
face, along with those family members who wish to be present. The session
is moderated by an official peacemaker, who is generally a respected
community leader. Each party is given an opportunity to talk about what
happened and how they feel about it.
Whereas the “Western” penal system, which grew out of Christianity, is
based on the concept of the punishment of evil, the Navajo system is based
on the idea of the restoration of balance in the community. When a crime
is committed, the balance of the community, the individuals involved, and
the Universe, is disturbed and must be reestablished.
Their method of restoring the balance is to identifying it, discuss it,
and to involve all parties in developing a plan to deal with it. For
example, the relatives of the accused might be asked to watch over their
relative to be sure he does not reoffend, or the accused might be asked to
give a symbolic object as part of the restitution process. Horses, for
instance, are prized possessions of the Navajo people and they are a form
of restitution for serious sexual insults. Such a symbol might mean
anything from "I'm sorry" to "Let this be a symbol and something tangible
to remind us that we have talked this hurt out and entere!d into good
relations with each other."
This experiment could prove to be an invaluable one. The Navajo Nation
courts see 28,000 criminal cases every year, but have enough jail space
for only 220 people at any one time. By returning to a traditional method
of justice that concentrates on the effects of a crime rather than how to
punish its perpetrator, the Navajos could be offering a lesson to the rest
of America and the western world. It is simply not viable to keep locking
up a major part of the population, and peacemaking could be a way of
reducing that prison population while letting the offenders see the
effects of their crimes. Most importantly of all, perhaps, it puts the
victim (or the person harmed by the crime) at the center of the justice
(Source: Institute for Social Inventions. From an article by The Honorable
Robert Yazzie, entitled 'Navajo justice', in YES! A Journal of Positive