The effects of a crime that has been committed don’t just end when a perpetrator is found guilty. And that can be a problem for a victim looking for closure.
In places like Nigeria, victims don’t get a chance to hear convicted offenders take responsibility for what they have done, or tell the offenders how they have been affected by the offenders’ crime.
But that’s what has been happening for the last decade in Concord, Massachusetts, with victims meeting with offenders and the police department as part of the Communities for Restorative Justice (C4RJ).
Thanks to the Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development and the Department of Conflict Resolution, 18 lawyers and justices in Nigeria were able to spend 10 days this June at UMass Boston and other locations in Massachusetts learning about the restorative justice process works in Concord and elsewhere.
“We’re answering the provost’s call and the dean’s call to increase global programming,” Darren Kew, associate professor of conflict resolution and the executive director of the Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development, said. “We are part of that movement on campus.”
The Nigerian contingent also met with Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office, a mediation group in Brookline, and the assistant public defender’s office.
Kew met with the group to discuss key similarities and differences between the U.S. and Nigerian dispute resolution systems. Roni Lipton, associate director of the graduate programs in conflict resolution, and Loriane Della Porta, deputy director of the Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration, based at UMass Boston, met with the delegates to discuss restorative justice approaches in the U.S. Jemadari Kamara, associate professor of Africana Studies, spoke with the delegates about the youth education programs he has set up in Boston and West Africa.
“Some of the sessions involved trainings, where they got to learn about specific tactics, but most were with practitioners sharing experiences of, ‘This is how we do it here. This is the work we do,’” Kew said.
Femi Ajisafe said he’ll be able to take the concepts he learned at UMass Boston and off campus back home to Lokoja, Nigeria.
“It was eye-opening to learn how youths who offend can be restored into society, become productive citizens, and have a good future,” Ajisafe said.
The Honorable Justice Joel Agaya, a judge on a state high court in Taraba, Nigeria, said he was struck with the concept of a the victim of a crime talking with offenders.
“That’s not happening in my country,” Agaya said. “In my country, when a crime is committed, the emphasis is on the crime, not on the victim.”
This is the Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development’s third Nigerian exchange program since 2008, and part of a continuing effort it has developed with an organization in Nigeria called Settlement House.
“Settlement House has a mission to develop the mediation and restorative justice systems in Nigeria,” Kew said. “The mediation movement in Nigeria is fairly recent. Settlement House is one of the leaders in the field.”
“I want to commend the university for putting together a program like this, for helping me to be an agent of change,” Agaya said.