In her latest book, Vancouver author Marilee Peters looks closely at the concept of restorative justice. She provides convincing examples of why and how society can move away from the narrative of punishment as the only answer to dealing with crime or conflict.
This is Peters’s third work of non-fiction for young readers, and she writes effectively for her audience. Her style is engaging, she lays out complex topics in a manner that is easy to understand without being condescending, and the scenarios she presents are relatable.
Each section of the book opens with a short fictionalized episode (based on real events) featuring a young person who is affected by crime or some form of conflict – from bullying to war – as either the victim or the perpetrator. These case studies show how restorative justice works and discusses the negative consequences that might have been expected from a more punitive method of retribution. In one example, an 18-year-old is given the option of apologizing to and volunteering for the victims of a rampage of vandalism he perpetrated in small-town Ontario, rather than serving jail time.
Peters is careful to point out that restorative justice doesn’t work in every situation. However, she also highlights the ways in which traditional justice systems don’t treat everyone fairly. This is a key point, because for many kids, the police and other elements of the justice system may be uniformly perceived as institutions that keep people safe. The reality is that minorities, indigenous people, and other people of colour are often unfairly targeted, and their punishments are often harsher. Acknowledging this might serve as a wake-up call to some readers, opening their eyes to the fact that there is room for improvement in the current system.
Making it Right encourages kids to learn how to achieve justice in their own lives, and in wider society, in a way that works for everyone – a way that de-escalates, rather than perpetuates, systemic violence.