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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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223 Responses

  1. Alexandra
    Alexandra January 8, 2013 at 7:23 pm |

    Thanks for writing about this. I read the article and was troubled, too.

    I think the biggest problem I have with the article is that the victim of Conor McBride’s violent crime was Ann Grosmaire, shot while begging for her life on her knees, but the article writes as if the real victims of McBride’s crime were Grosmaire’s parents, and to a lesser extent McBride’s parents. It is true that in a murder, waves of anguish radiate out from the center of the crime. One person has lost his or her life; that person’s whole family, and the family of the murderer, will suffer for the rest of their lives. But the living are ALIVE; the dead are dead forever.

    How can you speak of restorative justice when the most grievously injured person is not there to speak for themselves?

    1. Kasabian
      Kasabian January 8, 2013 at 7:49 pm |

      This is why I’m think Restorative Justice doesn’t really work for Murder 1. You can’t restore something that’s gone forever. There’s no way to ‘make it right’, at least for the victim.

      1. Jadey
        Jadey January 8, 2013 at 8:02 pm |

        It should be noted that there’s a difference between “restorative justice” and “reparative justice”, which the article muddies the water on.

        “Restorative” generally refers to (it’s a big umbrella term, though) restoring relationships and community and a sense of integrity to the victim and everyone involved and that kind of thing, not strictly about repairing the literal harm done, as in a property crime (which is reparative justice, essentially). For people who work in restorative justice approaches, it’s not about “making it right” or “making it the way it was before” as “being able to move on as a whole person/community once broken bonds have been restored”.

        This doesn’t mean I don’t share skepticism about the appropriateness of restorative justice concepts in certain circumstances (and concern about how these concepts can be misapplied even in appropriate circumstances), but I thought it was worth clarifying the terminology as much as is possible, given that the article did confuse it to some extent.

        1. Lindsay Beyerstein
          Lindsay Beyerstein January 8, 2013 at 8:27 pm |

          The article was hopelessly muddled. The author made restorative justice sound like the means by which Ann’s parents negotiated a reduced sentence for their daughter’s killer. According to this story, they forgave first and shopped around for a process to ensure that their forgiveness was reflected in his sentence later.

          Frankly, restorative justice or no, I don’t see why Ann’s parents’ forgiveness should make any difference to Conor’s sentence. As the parents explained, they did that psychological work for their own sake, not his. They knew Conor could never repay the debt, so they chose to write it off and spare themselves the psychic burden of recrimination. That’s admirable, but they could forgive Conor just as easily no matter what his sentence was.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune January 8, 2013 at 8:53 pm |

          “being able to move on as a whole person/community once broken bonds have been restored”.

          In which case murder applies in precisely ZERO cases.

          I am EXTREMELY wary of these concepts in any society which hasn’t begun to properly dismantle its racist/sexist/ableist/transphobic roots yet. It seems to me that it cannot fucking end well when your aim is to move on as a “whole community”, and only one person is actually regarded as part of said community and not a nonperson for reasons of gender/race/disability/orientation/what have you.

        3. White Rabbit
          White Rabbit January 8, 2013 at 9:27 pm |

          Thank you for the added clarity, Jadey.

  2. Kasabian
    Kasabian January 8, 2013 at 7:25 pm |

    Excellent post. It’s hard to even talk about how good ideas like restorative justice can potentially function so imperfectly in an imperfect, victim-blaming world, but it’s important to recognize and deal with these issues.

  3. z
    z January 8, 2013 at 7:26 pm |

    Additionally, does the fact that the perpetrator still went to prison mean anything has really changed at all with our sense of justice and rehabilitation?

  4. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune January 8, 2013 at 7:28 pm |

    How do you work on behalf of oppressed and abused people without anger as the motivating force?

    Just off the top of my head:

    A tranquil desire for justice.

    A passion for the transformation of society.

    Devotion to that which is good and true and right.

    Sincere love for the ideals you work towards.

    Compassion for the victims. (Valoniel’s contribution, which I personally think beats all of mine.)

    I find restorative justice problematic as FUCK. I also find the whole religious forgiveness bullshit even more problematic, as someone who’s survived that kind of shit.

    Also, hey, Dalai Lama! How’s all that opening yourself up to the enemy going for you? Saved any Tibetans from murder, rape and exile by Fuzzy Feelings yet?

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune January 8, 2013 at 7:32 pm |

      To clarify re: restorative justice: I do believe it works in cases of nonviolent crime. I believe it works in a haphazard sort of way in violent crime for which there is traditionally little victim-blaming (mugging, bar fights, burglaries) – it depends how sincere everybody is, I guess. However, I think that anyone who peddles restorative justice in the case of murder/rape/domestic violence/sexual abuse is at least as interested in smoothing over the whole thing so the Nice Guys (or Gals) can resume their Nice Place in their Nice Community as quickly and smoothly as possible, as they are in providing any justice to victims whatsoever. And those are simply not compatible ideals.

      1. Alexandra
        Alexandra January 8, 2013 at 7:46 pm |

        The impression I got from the NYT article was that the Grosmaires had grown very close to Conor McBride – at one point they mention that Ann was the only one of their daughters who wanted children, and I imagine they saw Conor as the father of their future grandchildren. They had lost their daughter, and the manner of her death meant a loss of the man they’d come to see as their son, I think. They didn’t want to lose him too.

        I have a ton of sympathy for the Grosmaires; I have never lost a loved one to a violent crime, and I have no idea how I’d react. I admire their dedication to mercy. But emotionally I cannot help but feel that their desire to forgive Conor McBride makes their love for their daughter seem cheap, somehow… or that they held their daughter too cheap. I don’t know.

      2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help January 9, 2013 at 10:21 pm |

        That’s just how it strikes me, macavitykitsune. Yet more erasure of the victims.

    2. Kasabian
      Kasabian January 8, 2013 at 7:34 pm |

      Is this from something else or just a personal philosophy? It sounds pretty cool, either way.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune January 8, 2013 at 11:42 pm |

        Kasabian, it’s pretty much my personal philosophy. At least, it’s how I’d like to be, someday; I’m still mired in a lot of destructive emotion, but I like to think I’m learning to channel it better. (By yelling at Foxy, for example.)

        Either way, the Hindu approach to working with the marginalised, as I read it, is about compassion and love for the victims and a devotion to justice without expectation of reward. So, that’s how I strive to be. I’m pathetic at it, I’ll admit that freely.

    3. Yonah
      Yonah January 11, 2013 at 6:19 am |

      Just as a note to your “religions of forgiveness” comment, in Canada at least restorative justice is known as a First Nations way of problemsolving crime, and is most widely used in Aboriginal communities. It is often combined with sentancing circles. I’ve been out of Canada for a long time, but if I recall correctly:

      – there are clear boundaries for when restorative justice/sentancing circles are up for consideration, for example I don’t believe it’s an option when violence was used against the victim

      – First Nations victims are definitely not well served by punitive justice in Canada, and on the other hand are overrepresented in prison, due pretty much exclusively to racism, often for non-violent offenses (drug charges, etc). Restorative justice addresses both these concerns

      It is kind of surreal to see this being discussed in a manner so divorced from First Nations issues and to have its Aboriginal origins discussed as like a possible “theory” as to where it came from, instead of something that, again, in Canada is known for being a product of Native people’s own thought and effort which is so successful in its area that (again, IIRC) it is gaining in popularity in non-Native communities as well.

      1. White Rabbit
        White Rabbit January 11, 2013 at 12:25 pm |

        @Yonah – Thank you for this information. I’ve been curious about RJ for a few months now, and I’ve struggled to find comprehensive information about both theory and implementation. It’s entirely possible I’m just looking in the wrong places or not extensively enough, but I had not read about its Aboriginal origins. I will look into that further.

        1. Yonah
          Yonah January 12, 2013 at 11:05 am |

          Then you might be interested to check thisout, an interesting read (warning, pdf).

        2. White Rabbit
          White Rabbit January 13, 2013 at 4:15 pm |

          @Yonah – Thanks. I’ll check it out.

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune January 11, 2013 at 12:40 pm |

        I was referring explicitly to the Jesus-crap being invoked in this case. I am aware of all the things you have pointed out.

  5. Ashley
    Ashley January 8, 2013 at 7:53 pm |

    I think there are different flavors of what is usually just lumped under the title “anger.” One kind of anger is destructive to your peace of mind and destructive generally–it’s just a desire to cause someone you see as the “enemy” pain, regardless of whether that would help a problematic situation improve. That kind of anger will give you ulcers and create all kinds of new problems in the world. The other kind of anger is a desire to set things right, and it’s based in love, even if it is a very powerful feeling. It might inspire strong action, but that action will be wise action that actually helps solve the problem at hand. I don’t think the second kind of anger, which is really just extremely powerful compassion and love, is destructive.

    1. SophiaBlue
      SophiaBlue January 8, 2013 at 8:07 pm |

      This. I feel like marginalized groups are often told they shouldn’t be angry, but anger can be a powerful force for positive change.

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune January 8, 2013 at 8:15 pm |

      . The other kind of anger is a desire to set things right, and it’s based in love, even if it is a very powerful feeling. It might inspire strong action, but that action will be wise action that actually helps solve the problem at hand. I don’t think the second kind of anger, which is really just extremely powerful compassion and love, is destructive.

      Yes. It occurs to me that people who harp on and on about how destructive anger ALWAYS is are missing the fuel for the exhaust.

      1. Jennifer
        Jennifer January 10, 2013 at 3:06 am |

        “missing the fuel for the exhaust”

        That’s a perfect way to put it.

    3. Donna L
      Donna L January 8, 2013 at 9:19 pm |

      One kind of anger is destructive to your peace of mind and destructive generally–it’s just a desire to cause someone you see as the “enemy” pain, regardless of whether that would help a problematic situation improve

      In my opinion, even that statement is unproven and basically just another reflection of Christian-centrism. Anger at one’s oppressors, or the present or past oppressors of one’s family or people, can be very satisfying, and doesn’t necessarily have to be “destructive generally,” regardless of whether it “helps a problematic situation improve” in some kind of objective sense.

      And I don’t believe that anybody has the right to forgive on behalf of the murdered (rather than on their own behalf), or to suggest that forgiveness in general is somehow the more virtuous or “restorative” path when the victims are no longer there to speak for themselves.

      1. Alexandra
        Alexandra January 8, 2013 at 9:43 pm |

        Right. I remember reading Simon Wiesenthal’s book The Sunflower on just this topic – the impossibility (and immorality) of forgiving a person for crimes committed against someone other than yourself.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune January 8, 2013 at 9:47 pm |

          I think an issue here that I find myself bumping up against repeatedly when I try to imagine restorative justice applied to murder cases, and that is one of ownership. If the victim’s family/friends feel that they have a right to determine what justice is meted out on behalf of the victim, isn’t that a statement of ownership? That they have the right to decide what the victim would have considered justice (through an auditory hallucination no less, in this case) and then conclude that they then have the right to affect the course of legal justice? What if different people in the immediate family have different reactions – as Ann’s sisters themselves did? Who gets to claim “ownership” of definitions of justice?

          These parents sicken me. Not for their course of action, but for pasting the responsibility for it on their daughter’s corpse. We have no idea what Ann thought about her murderer in the last seconds of her life. Who are they to claim that they know what she would have wanted, or have a right to impose what THEY wanted on the justice system?

        2. Alexandra
          Alexandra January 8, 2013 at 10:21 pm |

          Yeah, I agree. This is why I’ve had conversations with my brother and other family members making explicit that, as someone who opposes the death penalty, I would not wish it to be applied should I be murdered! A bizarre conversation to have, but I was surprised that my brother had also thought about this…

      2. (BFing)Sarah
        (BFing)Sarah January 8, 2013 at 10:36 pm |

        And I don’t believe that anybody has the right to forgive on behalf of the murdered (rather than on their own behalf), or to suggest that forgiveness in general is somehow the more virtuous or “restorative” path when the victims are no longer there to speak for themselves.

        Agreed.

        And I agree also with macavitykitsune: how could the parents know what Ann wanted? My parents might oriented towards forgiveness. I’m not.

        1. (BFing)Sarah
          (BFing)Sarah January 8, 2013 at 10:37 pm |

          Whoops. Messed up the block quote. You know what I meant, right?

      3. Ashley
        Ashley January 9, 2013 at 8:26 am |

        Donna, I’m a Buddhist. I’m not basing my statement on Christian thought, but on my own experience–that may not be “proven” in the scientific sense, but I don’t see how I could prove my own experience to be valid to someone else anyway.

        In my own personal experience, anger is highly unpleasant and I feel very bad when I am angry. I get hot and headachey and tight in my stomach and feel like I just want to hurt someone. When I act out of that feeling, I often regret whatever I’ve done or said later, when I’m feeling calm. On the other hand, when I act out of the overwhelming feeling that some suffering must be addressed, rather than out of a desire to punish someone, I feel very content with my actions, and instead of feeling physically uncomfortable, I feel powerful and energized. I think you could take the same action (putting an abuser in jail for life, for example) out of a desire for revenge or out of a desire to prevent such things from happening again (because in a case like this, the parents of the victim are not the only people who have been harmed or could be harmed, so not the only people who should be considered in a “just” solution).

        If you find that anger makes you feel satisfied, as you say, I certainly can’t argue with your own analysis of your internal state. But I definitely do not feel happy when I feel angry.

    4. matlun
      matlun January 9, 2013 at 10:15 am |

      I think there are different flavors of what is usually just lumped under the title “anger.”

      Anger for me is pretty much by definition of the first kind and is something that is often unproductive as well as personally unpleasant.

      However: Anger and forgiveness are not the only options. A strong and even uncompromising commitment to justice does not have to be coupled with the emotion anger. Neither does a lack of anger mean that you can not be assertive and stand up for the rights of yourself or others.

      Perhaps this is all a semantic difference in how we define “anger”?

  6. Jadey
    Jadey January 8, 2013 at 7:55 pm |

    I got two things from this article, which I read and found very interesting:

    1) This was an instance of achieving closure and healing for two people, but in an extremely exceptional and idiosyncratic case which cannot realistically be seen as a template for other cases. To the journalist’s credit, I didn’t feel like the article itself was necessarily angling toward this (at least not overtly – it read to me much more like an exploration of what truly was an exceptional circumstance but not necessarily promoting it as “the obvious way forward”). While we can learn something from extreme cases like this, we have to be very cautious to keep in mind at all times that we cannot use these as the basis of understanding what “restorative justice” is, because you won’t have the same pieces in play each time. Conor seemed genuinely remorseful as well as totally accepting of his culpability; Ann’s parents were intrinsically motivated and had a great deal of personal resources to draw upon as well as a value-set which was predisposed toward valuing forgiveness, so that it did not seem like they were coerced into it. But as Jill says, the real victim was also conveniently voiceless, pictures and mementos aside.

    Another set of people working through the same type of experience might have found such a circle destructive, painful, and a waste of time, so I appreciate the care and skepticism with which the professionals (both the restorative justice expert and the prosecutor) approached it, because the skepticism was surely valid, regardless of how it eventually turned out. I’m glad that it was productive, but I always worry about people mistaking an exceptional case for a typical one.

    2) While Conor may have been forgiven by Ann’s parents, there was no real mechanism for accountability regarding actions that would have prevented the steps which led to Ann’s death. Which is not to suggest something as extreme (and inane) as “His dad leaving a gun in their house is equivalent to murder!” or “Their parents’ failure to intervene sooner makes them just as guilty as him!”, but even with Conor accepting full responsibility for what he did, there’s nothing preventative about that on a large scale (although that’s not to say that there aren’t preventative steps being taken; the article did obliquely reference a teen dating violence education initiative, I believe). I highly doubt that Conor will recidivate, but he was probably not at a high risk to recidivate in the first place, once he understood the significance of actions and his immaturity in handling anger and conflict. I’m glad that he has not been put in a position where he would be inclined to become defensive and perpetuate his clearly reprehensible behaviour, but when it comes to justice I’m more concerned about what will help *more* people, rather than what helps the people who need the least assistance in the first place.

    I’m glad that the aftermath of Ann’s death was not more hurt and harm, but I’m not satisfied that she died at all. It should not have happened. I’m invested in alternative justice approaches to the extent that they contribute to prevention, and while our punitive approach does *not* in any empirically-demonstrable way do this, it’s essential to apply this standard in restorative approaches too. I feel like what the article is missing is a comment on how we can intervene sooner, help people sooner, before it gets to the point of needing a justice system intervention.

    So as far as a conversation starter goes, I think this case becomes limited fairly quickly. As a challenge to the inviolate “rightness” of the punitive justice hegemony? Sure, it works. Definitely thought-provoking. But not a clear path forward beyond that, by any means.

    (I’ll also note that his final sentence is still quite long by Canadian standards – USian prison terms are quite a lot longer than those of similar countries, like Canada and the UK. Just something to chew on re: the symbolism of sentencing practices, rather than their practical effect.)

    1. Miriam
      Miriam January 9, 2013 at 1:38 am |

      I don’t know how to block quote, but I want to respond to this “Another set of people working through the same type of experience might have found such a circle destructive, painful, and a waste of time”

      Something I don’t recall the reporter calling attention to but which jumped out at me is that the circle caused both of Ann’s parents to increase the length of prison time they recommended Conor should face. IIRC, Ann’s father is quoted as saying he had hoped to hear how it was all a tragic accident. I got the sense that Ann’s parents were in a lot of repression and focused on saving Conor to avoid facing that they’d lost Ann. The circle forced them to face their actual loss, and it did seem like it was painful. Maybe that was a good thing for them in the end; I’m not sure. People have to grieve in their own way. But it didn’t seem to be what they expected or hoped for.

  7. Lindsay Beyerstein
    Lindsay Beyerstein January 8, 2013 at 8:00 pm |

    As feminists, we already know that our community’s norms for dealing with domestic violence are fucked up and sexist. When domestic violence is handled privately, within families, it’s usually handled badly. The last thing we want to do is institutionalizes those biases. Ann needed a dispassionate advocate, i.e., the prosecutor. Her parents and her murderer are not the best arbiters of his punishment.

    Ann’s parents want to believe that Conor was a good boy who made one terrible mistake. I’m sure they’re lovely people, but they also have a vested interest in believing that. The alternative would be to believe that their future son-in-law, whom they loved, was an abuser who had been hurting their daughter for years without them even knowing. That’s a pretty terrible thing to confront when you’ve just lost your daughter. It’s easier to minimize the domestic violence to keep peace in what remains of the family.

    This is what happens in many DV cases, even when the victim doesn’t die. Friends and family paint the abuser as a good guy who lost it just this once, because he was provoked. The victim is often pressured to reconcile with her abuser. If the victim reconciles, peace can be restored in the family and nobody has to take sides anymore.

    If Ann’s parents want to forgive Conor for their own peace of mind, that’s wonderful, but it shouldn’t affect his sentence. The parents have done all the hard work. All Conor had to do was say he was sad and tell his own (likely self-serving) account of the murder. His account seems far-fetched even as relayed by a very sympathetic reporter. She somehow fell down and said she wanted to die so he pointed the gun at her to “snap her out of it,” and then she said she didn’t want to die, but he shot her anyway? Sure, buddy.

    Restorative justice should be reserved for lesser cases where the offender can work off their debt in a reasonable period of time. Nobody knows whether Conor is really sorry. The only way for him to prove that he is would be decades of remorse and restitution. (Which would count towards parole even in the regular court system.) You can’t give him a lighter sentence upfront and hope to see reform later. Whereas, with a stolen bike, the offender can bring the bike back right away and sign a court-approved payment plan to compensate the victim.

    1. White Rabbit
      White Rabbit January 8, 2013 at 9:43 pm |

      Yes, all of this. Thank you.

      I can understand the New York Times author not being versed in domestic violence, and thus not telling any of the story through that lens, but what excuse does the prosecutor have for mishandling this?? They didn’t even mandate that he attend a batterers intervention program while he’s in prison! It’s as if they all really do believe this was a one-off anomaly, despite all of the evidence to the contrary. Also, the rate of recidivism is high even when an abuser is sent to a DV program, so the odds that this guy will leave prison and abuse again in 20 years is very high. The community deserves far better from our justice system. DV advocates have worked far too hard to have all of their research pushed aside because this victim’s parents were snookered by a charming abuser.

      (Sorry, I’m still angry and not terribly coherent at the moment.)

    2. Miriam
      Miriam January 9, 2013 at 1:46 am |

      I agree with everything you wrote except that Conor took no action to prove his remorse. He turned himself in and confessed. That’s a very concrete action. He also went through or is currently going through some form of prison program for dealing with being an abuser (it’s mentioned in the article although not in detail).

      1. White Rabbit
        White Rabbit January 9, 2013 at 11:52 am |

        @Miriam While he did turn himself in and confess, I would argue that he knew he was inevitably going to be charged, as he had shot her with his own shotgun in his own apartment, so it was in his best interest to do so. I wouldn’t give him too much credit for this.

        As for rehabilitation, unless I missed something, he is absolutely notin “some form of prison program for dealing with being an abuser.” He is voluntarily taking anger management classes, but that is very different from a DV program.

        The following link summarizes why anger management is not appropriate for DV offenders: http://www.emergedv.com/index.php/anger-management/differences-in-programs/

        1. White Rabbit
          White Rabbit January 9, 2013 at 11:56 am |

          Oh, and just in case, my comment wasn’t meant to sound hostile!

          Many people are still under the impression that anger management addresses DV, so I wanted to clarify.

          Also, knowing how cunning abusers can be, I lean toward reviewing what’s in it for them in any particular action they take before generously offering them any benefit of the doubt.

        2. Miriam
          Miriam January 9, 2013 at 11:58 am |

          Thanks for that link! I’ve not encountered the difference between anger management and programs for domestic abusers before and that was an easy-to-follow breakdown of the differences. I wish the NY Times article author had known more about that and been able to talk to Campbell about why he didn’t set participation in a batterer program as a requirement for Conor. Do you know if batterer programs are done everywhere?

          I was also thinking about this again this morning and wishing the reporter had written more about the anger issues in the McBride family that are alluded to. I can’t help but wonder if a female reporter would have written more explicitly about the domestic violence and presented more of a sense of Ann.

      2. Lindsay Beyerstein
        Lindsay Beyerstein January 9, 2013 at 4:43 pm |

        You’re right, the fact that he turned himself in should count for something. Maybe not much, considering the enormity of the evidence against him, but something.

        1. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan January 9, 2013 at 8:53 pm |

          Really? When abusive men walk all the time for raping/beating/murdering women, it was oh-so-super NICE of him to turn himself in, wasn’t it? It also happened to be the cleverly convenient and publicly sympathetic thing to do, too.

        2. White Rabbit
          White Rabbit January 9, 2013 at 10:26 pm |

          Yes, publicly sympathetic – that’s what I was getting at above when I pointed out that it was actually in his best interest to turn himself in, but I couldn’t quite find the words.

          It can be difficult for non-manipulative people to see this kind of behavior for what it is, because that mode of operation is so foreign to someone who doesn’t make a habit of manipulating others. I’m familiar with it, and my spidey sense is tuned to it, because I grew up around some really twisted people.

        3. Datdamwuf
          Datdamwuf January 10, 2013 at 10:21 am |

          I agree with White Rabbit, manipulative people do whatever is best for them – turning himself in was likely not about remorse

  8. Nancy Green
    Nancy Green January 8, 2013 at 8:25 pm |

    This is just one example of a man shooting a woman with a gun his father obtained for him. Why would parents of a son who is showing every sign of having anger problems keep a gun in the house?
    I was just handed an ‘inspirational’ story at work about a young woman’s positive attitude despite being shot and paralyzed by a teenage boy, son of her parent’s friends who kept a gun and failed to teach their sons not to play with it.
    Why do we let the gun marketers keep claiming that guns make you safe?

  9. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune January 8, 2013 at 8:41 pm |

    “Everything I feel, I can feel because we forgave Conor,” Kate said. “Because we could forgive, people can say her name. People can think about my daughter, and they don’t have to think, Oh, the murdered girl.”

    Yeah, it’s funny how, despite a total lack of forgiveness in any direction, people manage not to think of me as Oh, the molested girl. It’s, like, literally the last thing on the list, I imagine, for most of them.

    Bullshit, lady. Justify whatever the fuck you want.

    1. Alexandra
      Alexandra January 8, 2013 at 8:59 pm |

      People deal with trauma differently. I don’t know why you think you have a special window into this woman’s mind that lets you say what is and is not a legitimate part of her ability to grieve and heal?

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune January 8, 2013 at 9:02 pm |

        I don’t care how anyone deals with anything. I care when it’s being presented as a) moral, b) the most moral, c) a recommended course of action, all of which the article’s trying to do. She gets to grieve however she wants; however, when she concludes that the right way to grieve is to set potentially dangerous legal precedents in areas of crime where offenders are already underreported, underprosecuted, under-penalised in a racist and misogynist society, I get to criticise her application of her healing process.

        1. Alexandra
          Alexandra January 8, 2013 at 10:18 pm |

          On reflection, I think you’re right. The Grosmaires have every right to forgive Conor McBride for the harm done to them, and they have every right to presume that their God forgives Conor McBride for his sins, but the state – the prosecution – has the right and duty to represent Ann Grosmaire, who cannot speak for herself because she was murdered, murdered in a horrific way.

          I have a lot of sympathy for the Grosmaires, because I think people’s grief and their responses to it are often unpredictable and surprising to the grieving person… but A4’s comment down the page, pulling out all the ways in which Ann Grosmaire’s parents tried to recast her murder – and she begged for her life – as a martyrdom akin to the crucifixion, is incredibly disturbing. The power of the crucifixion story, after all, is that Jesus as Christ was a willing victim. Ann Grosmaire was not willing. She wanted to live.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune January 8, 2013 at 10:55 pm |

          The power of the crucifixion story, after all, is that Jesus as Christ was a willing victim. Ann Grosmaire was not willing. She wanted to live.

          Exactly. I’m not even Christian and I find the ease with which people appropriate Jesus’ story incredibly sickening. And to place that story on a murdered woman is so far over the line that the line’s a dot on the horizon.

  10. pedestrian
    pedestrian January 8, 2013 at 8:59 pm |

    So he gets his sentence reduced. What happens to all the people in prison who aren’t nice white boys with people eager to forgive what they’ve done?

    1. stratonike
      stratonike January 24, 2013 at 8:31 pm |

      I wondered the very same thing.

  11. White Rabbit
    White Rabbit January 8, 2013 at 9:26 pm |

    Thank you so very much for writing about this. That article brought out my rageasaurus. There seems to be a lot that was mishandled in that case, and I’m still too angry to be able to write coherently about it, but I plan on doing so when I’ve simmered down, as I definitely need to vent.

    Did anyone else notice that he wasn’t mandated to participate in a batterer’s intervention program in prison? Instead, he mentions that he’s voluntarily attending anger management classes. Ugh! Anyone who has studied this subject closely knows that anger management classes do not address domestic violence, as DV is not an anger management problem!

    And I cringe at the thought that this murderer got a lighter sentence in part because of the charm that abusers often possess. His girlfriend’s parents were clearly smitten with him, and this worked to his advantage here. Having dated a narcissistic abuser, and recognizing many of the same behaviors in this guy, I just shudder at the real possibility that he’s a sociopath who will be set free in 20 years without having received any therapy to address his abusive tendencies.

    I am a fan of the concept of restorative justice, but I have been very concerned about the prospect of applying it to DV. I actually attended a well-attended workshop recently that focused on applying RJ to DV, and I was surprised that I was one of very few people who held these concerns. I’ve been thinking about it ever since, and as far as I’m concerned, this article illustrated that we have a long way to go in figuring out how to effectively implement RJ.

  12. dc
    dc January 8, 2013 at 9:27 pm |

    the victim of Conor McBride’s violent crime was Ann Grosmaire, shot while begging for her life on her knees, but the article writes as if the real victims of McBride’s crime were Grosmaire’s parents, and to a lesser extent McBride’s parents.

    THIS[& this];

    This is why I’m think Restorative Justice doesn’t really work for Murder 1. You can’t restore something that’s gone forever. There’s no way to ‘make it right’, at least for the victim.

  13. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin January 8, 2013 at 9:27 pm |

    I have seen anger consume and eat people alive, people I love with every ounce of my being. Many of my friends work in social justice fields or in social work of some flavor or another.

    The ones I respect the most are the ones who find a way to be loving, regardless of the circumstances that face them daily. While anger might be what initially spurs us on, we can’t live in that sort of maelstrom for very long.

    Why not find reasons to stay even-tempered, even as we budge not a single inch on our core convictions? The older I get, the less sustained anger really makes much sense to me. Regardless of why, there will always be reasons to be righteously indignant. I wish feminists like myself will recognize their emotional limitations, even as they rail against a corrupt system.

    1. Drahill
      Drahill January 9, 2013 at 1:53 pm |

      Is this what they’re teaching in the liberal meetinghouses now? Jesus Christ on a cracker. There is nothing wrong with anger. Anger moves people to correct injustice. Anger drives people forward all the time. Righteous anger is good because it means you have a moral compass.

      The command to let go of anger is an admonition to apathy, to me. You can choose to live your life that way, but plenty of people disagree. People who use their anger to get shit done.

    2. Donna L
      Donna L January 9, 2013 at 2:10 pm |

      While anger might be what initially spurs us on, we can’t live

      Could you please stop universalizing your own experience and opinions, and start making a habit of using “I” instead? Do you realize how arrogant this sort of thing makes you (and other people who do this) appear?

    3. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune January 9, 2013 at 2:17 pm |

      . I wish feminists like myself will recognize their emotional limitations, even as they rail against a corrupt system.

      I think the douchey mansplaining ones like you are already all about the emotional limitations of women, thanks.

    4. Revolver
      Revolver January 10, 2013 at 2:58 pm |

      Ladies, if you just weren’t man-hating feminazis consumed by your own rage, you would find peace within the patriarchy!

      1. Bagelsan
        Bagelsan January 10, 2013 at 3:43 pm |

        *gets out the heels and martinis*

  14. dc
    dc January 8, 2013 at 9:37 pm |

    [and, as a D.A. survivor. & trans,also so very much this]:

    I think that anyone who peddles restorative justice in the case of murder/rape/domestic violence/sexual abuse is at least as interested in smoothing over the whole thing so the Nice Guys (or Gals) can resume their Nice Place in their Nice Community as quickly and smoothly as possible, as they are in providing any justice to victims whatsoever. And those are simply not compatible ideals

    1. Alexandra
      Alexandra January 8, 2013 at 10:32 pm |

      When people say, “But he was such a good guy!” upon finding out that a friend or loved one has committed a crime – I always find myself thinking, Really? He was a good person?

      Most people who commit horrible crimes are not horrible all the time – they love their dog, they love their mother, they pick up their neighbor’s mail while their neighbor is on vacation, etc etc etc. But to be a good person implies something more: it implies that this person is working actively to lead a moral life, a life that not only does not harm the people around them, but that benefits the people in their society, in the world as a whole…. to commit a violent crime against a loved one (or against anyone) strikes your name from that list.

      There are redemption stories out there, powerful ones (the one that comes to mind is Reverend Bennie Newton, an ex-con whose works after leaving prison included saving a man’s life at great personal risk during the 1992 LA riots), but redemption doesn’t mean that one has a moral epiphany, is forgiven for one’s sins, and then welcomed back into the community with open arms… redemption is work and lifelong work, and it’s not a notion that everyone should have to buy into. It is a very Christian notion, and not everyone believes in Christian forgiveness, because not everyone’s moral code comes from Christianity!

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune January 8, 2013 at 10:36 pm |

        “Well, when you take all the shit out of the shit sundae, it’s jsut a cherry! What’s wrong with a cherry? DON’T YOU LIKE CHERRIES YOU HORRIBLE PERSON????”

        1. Alexandra
          Alexandra January 8, 2013 at 10:43 pm |

          I think in the aftermath of violent crime people feel a ton of cognitive dissonance: how could this person, who I loved, who did xyz good things, who contributed in xyz ways to the community, have done these awful things? It’s as if we are incapable of conceiving of people as anything but “monsters” or “good, ordinary people like you and me.”

  15. A4
    A4 January 8, 2013 at 9:45 pm |

    I tried with this one. I went and grabbed my Critical Race Feminisms reader and read the piece of Navajo Peacemaking and it’s applicability to domestic violence because Jill reminded me of it. Then I went to read the article and I got to this:

    Ann’s face was covered in bandages, and she was intubated and unconscious, but Andy felt her say, “Forgive him.” His response was immediate. “No,” he said out loud. “No way. It’s impossible.” But Andy kept hearing his daughter’s voice: “Forgive him. Forgive him.”

    And then this:

    “I knew that we were somehow together on this journey,” Andy says now. “Something had happened to our families, and I knew being together rather than being apart was going to be more of what I needed.”

    and this:

    like Jesus on the cross, she had wounds on her head and hand.

    and then this:

    “I realized it was not just Ann asking me to forgive Conor, it was Jesus Christ,” Andy recalls. “And I hadn’t said no to him before, and I wasn’t going to start then. It was just a wave of joy, and I told Ann: ‘I will. I will.’ ” Jesus or no Jesus, he says, “what father can say no to his daughter?”

    and this:

    Conor owed us a debt he could never repay. And releasing him from that debt would release us from expecting that anything in this world could satisfy us.”

    Their daughter was not even dead and they were projecting Jesus onto her mutilated body. They write their dying daughters final thoughts for her and then consider her death a debt owed to them, for them to decide proper payment and dispensation.

    I think the amount of sympathy and humanity this murderer is given right off the bat, contrasted with the divinity and purity forced upon the daughter, is nothing progressive, and only another way of dehumanizing his victim and centering this murder around the murderer.

    I just can’t read any more of this. Someone let me know if I’m missing something large by not continuing.

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune January 8, 2013 at 9:50 pm |

      Of course her death was a debt! Wimminz are property, dontcha know.

      Yeah, I’m pretty disgusted with these people as well.

    2. Donna L
      Donna L January 8, 2013 at 10:00 pm |

      I just can’t read any more of this.

      I’ve had more than enough just from those quotations. I have no intention of reading it. It would just make me angry, and we all know how destructive that can be.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune January 8, 2013 at 10:07 pm |

        Somewhere, somehow, even your current potential anger is killing a puppy.

        1. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan January 9, 2013 at 2:49 pm |

          Is that how puppies die? We all know how kittens die… *looks smugly guilty*

    3. Angie unduplicated
      Angie unduplicated January 10, 2013 at 11:29 am |

      Women often forgive their abusers, and take them back into their households. The violence then escalates. The abuser is thrown out, begins stalking, and then decides to “teach the B a lesson for the last time”.
      So her daddy heard her say “Forgive him”. Those are the exact words which led to her death. If he can’t figure that one out, he’s little better than the murderer is. Indeed, he may have been the one who said those words, and started the dominos toppling, which makes the second crime Whitewash 1.
      One great piece of anger management for victimized peoples came from John F. Kennedy: “Don’t get mad, get even.” It’s also a stress reducer and smile generator.

  16. Henry
    Henry January 8, 2013 at 10:01 pm |

    Restorative justice makes me puke, it’s just a system that recognizes and then enables the power offenders have in society and the need to paper over their full responsibility. This is not a petty crime, it’s a violent assault and then murder. Where will these parents be when this violent criminal gets out of prison in 10 years and starts dating his next victim? There’s a reason we traditionally do not give victims much of a say in reducing a sentence. I can’t wait for this to be applied to organized crime murders where the witnesses and victim’s families are often coerced into silence. Save the hippy feel good shit for people accused of grafitti, shoplifting or peddling drugs.

    1. (BFing)Sarah
      (BFing)Sarah January 8, 2013 at 10:51 pm |

      I couldn’t stop thinking about that: the next person this guy dates. Because that person will probably fall for his “charm” too. Even KNOWING that he went to prison for murder of his last partner. How many times does someone have to punch someone before you can say: nope, not a Nice Guy? How many women can he murder? How moral is their forgiveness when it helps lead to a man getting out and doing the same thing?

  17. hotpot
    hotpot January 8, 2013 at 10:47 pm |

    Frankly I just can’t get over the fact that none of this would have occurred without the shotgun. It seems to me that should be the headline, here.

    Lots of people have fits of rage. I’ve had fits of rage so extreme that I’ve broken holes through walls and made my hair fall out. But even in the most rageful moment that I’ve ever had in my life, I had enough self-awareness not to lay a hand on another person. But not everyone is the same, not every circumstance is the same, and relationships are for most people the source of where the most powerful emotions in life come from. If you can’t say with absolutely certainty you would stay away from your firearm at that moment, then don’t have one.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L January 8, 2013 at 10:57 pm |

      If you can’t say with absolutely certainty you would stay away from your firearm at that moment, then don’t have one.

      I think this is kind of a digression, but If I had a gun, I wouldn’t be able to say with any kind of certainty that I would stay away from it: I can’t imagine ever shooting anyone (unless it were in direct defense of my son or someone else I love), but I can easily imagine using a gun on myself, on any number of past occasions. Which is why it would be a very bad idea for me to own one, I think.

      1. hotpot
        hotpot January 8, 2013 at 11:15 pm |

        That’s kind of the way Conor tells it, too. He originally was planning to use it on himself, but chickened out. I suppose a person’s defenses are down when the question is suicide, because we feel entitled more to take our own lives than those of others. So when he was going to his father’s chest, unlocking the shelf, going to the next room to get the ammunition, loading the gun, and putting it up to his chin, somehow in the back of his mind he knew he wasn’t going to kill himself. He knew he was just going through the motions.

        What he wasn’t counting on is that she would come back into the apartment at that moment, he would become even more angry, and that his ritualistic preparation would enable what would probably have been just another of his many previous swings of his fist into something life-ending.

        1. Donna L
          Donna L January 9, 2013 at 3:12 am |

          Maybe it is the way he tells it, but I’m not Conor. Even if I had a gun. I’ve never bought the “we are all capable of X under Y circumstances” theory. I’m not.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune January 9, 2013 at 3:17 am |

          What he wasn’t counting on is that she would come back into the apartment at that moment, he would become even more angry, and that his ritualistic preparation would enable what would probably have been just another of his many previous swings of his fist into something life-ending.

          Except I simply can’t imagine doing that to my wife. Not even if I was suicidal. Hell, PARTICULARLY if I was suicidal, because fuck me, it doesn’t work that way.

        3. hotpot
          hotpot January 9, 2013 at 2:02 pm |

          Of course. I wasn’t trying to draw any parallel between him and anyone else. Sorry if that wasn’t clear. I just thought it was interesting that you mentioned suicide and it was also played a critical part in Conor’s story, especially since I recently saw a statistic that the majority of gunshot fatalities are actually suicides.

  18. (BFing)Sarah
    (BFing)Sarah January 8, 2013 at 10:54 pm |

    Yeah it strikes me that the family members of DV victims are not always the most supportive people in the face of DV. A close family member of mine suffered DV at the hands of her ex and her mother, whom I love, continually told her to work at making the relationship work and that she should try talking to him differently. Yeaaaaaah. So just because they have a child that was killed by her abuser does not mean that they are immune to his charms, quite the contrary.

    1. (BFing)Sarah
      (BFing)Sarah January 8, 2013 at 10:56 pm |

      All the more reason why, as many stated above, RJ for murder, DV, rape, etc. is not something I can support.

      1. Niall
        Niall January 9, 2013 at 11:19 am |

        @ (BFing)Sarah:

        All the more reason why, as many stated above, RJ for murder, DV, rape, etc. is not something I can support.

        Neither can I. Even though I can agree that RJ is appropriate for crimes against property like theft, burglary, vandalism and the like – the reality is that most of these crimes go unsolved anyway. I’ve been on the receiving end of two break ins and in neither of those cases did I have any idea who the guilty persons were. I reported them to the cops (something I wouldn’t even bother doing now) but had absolutely no expectation they’d do anything about it other than fill out the routine paperwork and would just be another statistic. Neither did the cops, I imagine. And that’s not even getting into the items I’ve had stolen from me over the years. And recovery rates for stolen property are very low all around, let alone arrest and conviction.

        So while I think RJ has some merit, I don’t think, bearing all this in mind, that it’s going to make any significant change in crime overall. I think it’s importance can be overstated.

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune January 8, 2013 at 10:57 pm |

      Yeah, this is a thing that I know firsthand, how creepy it is to be in an environment like that. Valoniel’s not an abuser, thank fuck, but I have no doubt that if she was, I would still be encouraged to Adapt And Get Along by people I know, largely because I know how much abuse they’re willing to justify both putting up with and meting out under the same terms. It’s left me feeling profoundly unsafe with them.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune January 8, 2013 at 11:00 pm |

        Ah, that’s them as in those people, not Valoniel, sorry for wacky phrasing!

  19. Restorative justice and domestic violence | ChristianBookBarn.com

    [...] Article FROM http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2013/01/08/restorative-justice-and-domestic-violence/ < The lead story in last weekend’s New York Times Magazine is about a young man who shot and [...]

  20. Gerry Dorrian
    Gerry Dorrian January 9, 2013 at 12:08 am |

    Looks like the perp has groomed the family into thinking he’s a great guy as he probably programmed his victim to think the same, and now he’s probably manipulating them into getting a warm fuzzy from the sense of righteousness they get from forgiving him. As a British politician once said, sometimes we need to “condemn a bit more and understand a bit less”.

  21. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve January 9, 2013 at 12:23 am |

    I don’t think the parents’ forgiveness should have any bearing on the sentence of the killer.

    However, if it was me who was killed, by my wife or anyone else, I would want my parents to do whatever it takes to make themselves feel better about it. If that means forgiving the killer, that’s fine with me. I wouldn’t demand that my parents protect my integrity after I’m dead to any further extent than whatever gives them the greatest closure.

  22. Li
    Li January 9, 2013 at 1:38 am |

    What prize do I get for correctly guessing Conor McBride’s race before clicking on the link?

    1. Alexandra
      Alexandra January 9, 2013 at 1:43 am |

      Vanilla icecream?

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune January 9, 2013 at 2:08 am |

      He’s a purple thought-experiment person?

      1. Angie unduplicated
        Angie unduplicated January 10, 2013 at 11:33 am |

        Don’t even try associating that s.o.b. with people who have purple birthmarks. If you want thought experiments, try thinking about not slandering people of any color.

  23. Miriam
    Miriam January 9, 2013 at 2:06 am |

    Looking at how many people had the same problems with the NY Times article I did, I really question the reporter’s choices to frame the story. He starts portraying Conor and Ann of having a wonderful relationship and only later reveals that no, Conor was a domestic abuser. So much is told by Conor and the parents even though the parents didn’t even seem to know about the abuse. Did the reporter interview Ann’s friends? Look at her social media footprint? She’s dead so she can’t speak for herself, but surely the reporter could have made more effort to represent her POV.

    I also thought the reporter did a poor job of explaining the concept of restorative justice. I felt very confused at the end by what was gained (other than the parents having to give up some of their denial about Conor). I don’t know why the parents’ choices are supposed to be looked at as a model in any way when it seemed so clear their choices were a way for them to instill some form of meaning to their suffering (and maybe appease their guilt over not knowing that Conor was abusing Ann). It just seems like they needed good therapy more than they needed the circle.

    I thought the prosecutor at least did a good job of not letting his sentence be overly swayed by their way of processing grief. He did speak with the head of a domestic violence shelter at least and still went for a longer sentence than the parents advocated.

  24. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune January 9, 2013 at 2:06 am |

    Restorative justice sees crime as an act against an individual and a community, not against the state.

    I think I can pinpoint the issue there, now. It’s twofold:

    1) An act against an individual: restorative justice breaks down when addressing an act against an individual if there is no social consensus that that act is, in fact, objectively harmful. There is currently social consensus that, say, breaking every bit of furniture in someone else’s house is harmful; there is no social consensus that rape, sexual abuse, domestic violence or even gendered murder is an act against an individual that is objectively wrong. Thus, existing societal frameworks around these things will inevitably skew in the direction of the abuser/perpetrator.

    2) An act against a community: do we as a society truly view rape, sexual abuse or domestic violence as an act against a community? Or is it the act of rooting out these things that is viewed as divisive and worthy of punishment? I ask in all seriousness. If anything, it seems that speaking up is punished more often than committing the atrocity in the first place. I mean, take that gang-raped kid from Texas. Who was being protected by the community? Who was viewed as transgressing? It wasn’t the rapists. If I called out my abuser tomorrow, he wouldn’t be the one seen as tainted and sick in the village I grew up in; it’d be me. You know, the insufficiently feminine, insufficiently straight one. Can anyone seriously say that I, or any of the other people here who identify as survivors of these things – Donna, William, Becca, Pheeno, etc – aren’t in greater danger of being marginalised than any abuser we might speak up against?

    Restorative justice is a lovely concept. Unfortunately, its current application in these issues is a bad fucking idea, and will continue to be a bad fucking idea until racist/misogynistic/cis-supremacist/heterocentric bullshit is dismantled in its entirety, and I’m not holding my breath on that happening in the next ten minutes.

    1. LC
      LC January 9, 2013 at 10:05 am |

      An act against a community: do we as a society truly view rape, sexual abuse or domestic violence as an act against a community? Or is it the act of rooting out these things that is viewed as divisive and worthy of punishment?

      I think this is a big thing for me when I see discussions of restorative or transformative justice. I’m tangentially part of a discussion right now on a FB group about sexual assault issues in the Burning Man community, and I’m seeing this dynamic, and a resistance by some to the idea that what usually happens is the “divisive element” is considered to be the people who rooted things out and who aren’t letting the “good guy who made a mistake” back in.

    2. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve January 9, 2013 at 12:42 pm |

      Can anyone seriously say that I, or any of the other people here who identify as survivors of these things – Donna, William, Becca, Pheeno, etc – aren’t in greater danger of being marginalised than any abuser we might speak up against?

      I would say that the response would greatly depend on the individual and this is going to sound strange, but how early these lessons are learned is important. Using myself as an example, as I said on a previous thread, the fact that I was never ever verbally taught/explained the concept of consent never led to me even being accused of inappropriate behavior, much less raping anyone. A couple of posters chalked that up to a ‘sense of humanity’ that other people don’t have.

      However, when I thought about the reasons for this, the fact that as a child my mother was very open about her experiences with molestation as an adolescent, albeit she never described it as a traumatic experience, more like ‘this is why you can’t go with strangers.’ Since she was not raped, she went running after being touched inappropriately, I suppose hearing this first hand from someone so close at an early age, may have at least somewhat stopped me from any potential inappropriate behavior I may not have understood was wrong.

      Fortunately my mother was never shunned/marginalized about this, but there was no guarantee of this and if, as mac suggests, that she or “any of the other people here who identify as survivors of these things – Donna, William, Becca, Pheeno, etc” are in “greater danger of being marginalised than any abuser we might speak up against?” then the children of abused parents will not learn the lessons I learned. Clearly the data suggests that the children of abused parents tend to learn the opposite.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune January 9, 2013 at 12:47 pm |

        ………………

        I can’t tell if you missed the point deliberately or not. So I’m going to content myself with saying that you’re either a clueless, privileged twit or a disingenuous douchebag, because I am literally too angry to respond with anything coherent right now.

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune January 9, 2013 at 12:59 pm |

        Okay, fuck that, commenting anyway.

        1) I am talking about a justice process that involves an extended community and has the power to impose legal consequences, not your mother’s personal process – or anyone else’s personal process! – of healing/openness. I’m open about survivor status IRL too, with a few exceptions.

        2) If you are seriously making the case that it’s important to Educate The Young and that’s why survivors should speak up to me, as if it’s not something I say and believe and DO, then O_O that is all.

        3) The learning process of survivors’ – or non-survivors’ – children is not remotely what I was talking about. Sure, I talk to my kid about safe touch; it’s not the same as taking my abuser to court. WTF?

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve January 9, 2013 at 2:49 pm |

          Okay, fuck that, commenting anyway.

          1) I am talking about a justice process that involves an extended community and has the power to impose legal consequences, not your mother’s personal process – or anyone else’s personal process! – of healing/openness. I’m open about survivor status IRL too, with a few exceptions.

          2) If you are seriously making the case that it’s important to Educate The Young and that’s why survivors should speak up to me, as if it’s not something I say and believe and DO, then O_O that is all.

          3) The learning process of survivors’ – or non-survivors’ – children is not remotely what I was talking about. Sure, I talk to my kid about safe touch; it’s not the same as taking my abuser to court. WTF?

          Mac, I was using my story to agree with you. Sorry if it came off sounding like I was using my example to argue against you.

    3. Dan_Brodribb
      Dan_Brodribb January 9, 2013 at 2:43 pm |

      Thanks for breaking things down like that, mac.

      I especially liked your second point.

      I have a different take on point 1, though. I can’t speak for other cultures, but the impression I get around here isn’t that people think domestic violence, sexual assault and gendered murder aren’t wrong. A lot of folks think those things are Extra-Super-Wrong and only a total monster would do them.

      And since Person X doesn’t look like a monster, they tell themselves he couldn’t possibly have done such a thing.

    4. Denise Winters
      Denise Winters January 9, 2013 at 9:34 pm |

      I agree that there are cases in which restorative justice would likely be pointless. Given the reason that most people are put into the criminal justice system, and what does and does not constitute a crime in the first place, I think it would be a good thing for most crimes and would actually free-up space for those who actually should go to prison.

      U.S. society is racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, and xenophobic, and the criminal justice system reflects that to an alarming degree. Given the way prison has been shown to lead to affect people in the long run and the high rates of recidivism, I do not think restorative justice should be dismissed in most cases because it can not work for some crimes. And that does not even touch on the way prisons are used as a source of cheap labor.

      Prisons are overflowing with drug offenders who, assuming we must criminalize most of these substances, would get better results from rehab in a non-forensic setting, and many other smaller crimes that could be prevented through intervention in many cases. In the U.S., we have people who call for the warehousing and exploitation of people who do on a small scale what many corporations do on a large scale, while they are also quick to question rape survivors on why they were out late at night or counsel women on how to “avoid being raped.”

      I support the family doing what they must to move on. However, I can easily imagine a case in which restorative justice is used to be more lenient to DV abusers and rapists than to people who write bad checks and break into homes while unarmed. As a matter of fact, I would argue that is already the case with anger management being an option for some abusers, while some drug charges carry mandatory sentences. I fully support restorative justice in most cases, but feel that their application to crimes against minorities would reflect everything already wrong about the CJ system. I am even willing to guess that there are people out there applauding this family for forgiving an “otherwise good man who made a mistake” while calling for tougher sentencing for other crimes. The mindset is all to common within a certain subset that is all to willing to believe that straight white cis-men have “problems” and “make mistakes” while everyone else is a “menace.”

  25. matlun
    matlun January 9, 2013 at 2:56 am |

    I am very skeptical towards the concept of restorative justice when it comes to serious crimes.

    If we are talking about serious enough crimes, any restoration can only be about the community healing from the aftermath and not the perpetrator. The perpetrator should at least spend a very long time in prison and never again be a part of the same community.

    I sincerely believe that some crimes should never be forgiven.

    1. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve January 9, 2013 at 12:17 pm |

      I am very skeptical towards the concept of restorative justice when it comes to serious crimes.

      If we are talking about serious enough crimes, any restoration can only be about the community healing from the aftermath and not the perpetrator. The perpetrator should at least spend a very long time in prison and never again be a part of the same community.

      I sincerely believe that some crimes should never be forgiven.

      Who the hell do you think you are telling the victim of a horrible crime how they should feel about it? What are you? The feelings police? So, a victim’s parents decide to forgive their child’s killer in order to help them with coping process. Oh, no they can’t do that, because matlun insists they hold onto their anger, probably secretly hoping that it will result in some sort of harm to themselves or others.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune January 9, 2013 at 12:20 pm |

        Who the hell do you think you are telling the victim of a horrible crime how they should feel about it?

        While I agree completely with the point of your post, Steve, I feel I should point out that this is a case where the actual victim of the crime has been, through auditory hallucination no less, had a narrative of forgiveness imposed on her in the total absence of evidence. So, maybe not the best example to make this point with.

      2. matlun
        matlun January 9, 2013 at 12:51 pm |

        Who the hell do you think you are telling the victim of a horrible crime how they should feel about it

        No one. I certainly did not mean to imply that my view should be imposed on everyone’s personal feelings. (While in this scenario the victim is dead and silent, I understand your comment to be from a general perspective).

        Also, I did specify “serious enough”. This is intrinsically subjective and reasonable people will differ on which specific cases should be included in this category.

        My point was simply: For some criminals, I say f*k forgiveness or rehabilitation. They can just rot in prison (and the only reason I am against the death penalty is that due to the risk of innocents getting killed, I do not want the state to have this authority).

        My problem is largely with the implication that forgiveness is intrinsically a good thing. I do not believe this is the case. Nor (as stated in my other post) do I think that forgiveness is needed to be able to give up your anger and go on with your life.

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve January 9, 2013 at 1:28 pm |

          While I agree completely with the point of your post, Steve, I feel I should point out that this is a case where the actual victim of the crime has been, through auditory hallucination no less, had a narrative of forgiveness imposed on her in the total absence of evidence. So, maybe not the best example to make this point with..

          You are, of course, correct, this not the ideal example. I was specifically adressing matlun’s points which seemed more general.

          Having said that, speaking purely on a personal level, if my parents want to have an auditory hallucination on my behalf, that’s great, if it helps them get over my death. Honestly, if digging up my grave and defiling my corpse makes them feel better, I’m fine with it. I refuse to get all bent out of shape over what happens to ME after I’m dead.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune January 9, 2013 at 1:45 pm |

          Honestly, if digging up my grave and defiling my corpse makes them feel better, I’m fine with it.

          That’s very sweet of you, Steve. Are you equally comfortable with them digging up your corpse for the purpose of defiling the legal process for the hundreds of people who might die under your exact circumstances each year?

        3. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve January 9, 2013 at 3:14 pm |

          That’s very sweet of you, Steve. Are you equally comfortable with them digging up your corpse for the purpose of defiling the legal process for the hundreds of people who might die under your exact circumstances each year?

          No, and that’s why I said it shouldn’t affect his sentence. And it’s why I said I was ‘speaking purely on a personal level’ and why I specifically said ‘my parents,’ ‘me,’ ‘I,’ etc.

          I’m talking about using forgiveness as a personal coping technique, not suggesting it should have any basis in law.

      3. Donna L
        Donna L January 9, 2013 at 1:32 pm |

        Who the hell do you think you are telling the victim of a horrible crime how they should feel about it?

        Excuse me? What the fuck are you talking about? Did you even read this post? Did you happen to notice that the victim here is dead, and can’t forgive anybody? The only people in this who told the victim how she should “feel” about it were her parents hallucinating her voice.

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve January 9, 2013 at 2:52 pm |

          Excuse me? What the fuck are you talking about? Did you even read this post? Did you happen to notice that the victim here is dead, and can’t forgive anybody? The only people in this who told the victim how she should “feel” about it were her parents hallucinating her voice.

          As I said to mac, I was responding to matlun’s general comment, and this specific instance is a bad example since the victim is dead.

        2. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve January 9, 2013 at 3:20 pm |

          And having said that, I realize that my comments responding to matlun caused an accidental derail.

          I really was not specifically addressing the case in the OP, just forgiveness in general in response to the first comment in this nest (hence the number of people asking me if I ‘read the post’,) and also pointing out that I have no interest in anything done in my name after I’m dead (which I also acknowledged is a private personal decision of my own and no reflection on what other people should do.)

  26. [link] Restorative justice and domestic violence « feimineach.com

    [...] Feministe, below, presents some important critiques on the use of restorative justice in cases of domestic/ intimate partner violence in a patriarchal and male-dominated culture. [...] [...]

  27. Chelsea
    Chelsea January 9, 2013 at 10:19 am |

    Very interesting. I have learned about restorative justice before and even did some role-play with it in a class but have never thought of it from this angle before. Changes my perspective on it

  28. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin January 9, 2013 at 10:28 am |

    It hurts me to see many people with such punitive perspectives. “Lock ‘em up and throw away the key” can just as easily be turned against the person who espouses it. The mean-spirited commentary is in the same vein as the mean-spirited attitudes which make our criminal justice system a failure.

    Some seem to think that agency means “I have a right to be angry and talk about how awful everything is. And you can’t tell me otherwise, or you’re removing my right to my own opinion!” I’m certainly not asking anyone to avoid understanding justice and how unfairly it is applied. But why do we always have to return to instances like these, which are provocative, often to no good end?

    No comment yet, save mine, has bothered to take on the whole of the piece, especially the section at the bottom. Instead, all anyone seems to want to do is salivate in Pavlovian fashion.

    1. Jadey
      Jadey January 9, 2013 at 10:43 am |

      That’s an unfair criticism – yours is certainly not the only comment to address the role of anger and the questions Jill poses at the end of her post. If you think that, you need to re-read the thread again. Your comment sounds pretty kneejerk itself.

      I do not agree with all the comments here, re: the type of person Conor is (frankly, I don’t think any of us has enough insight to know based on one article from one journalist) and what treatment he deserves, but I can also understand the frustration and fury and where it comes from the continual privileging of certain kinds of forgiveness narratives for certain people to the detriment of the rest of the critical analysis.

      1. FashionablyEvil
        FashionablyEvil January 9, 2013 at 11:27 am |

        For me, the more interesting parts of the story were the fact that Ann’s father was devastated by the fact that his hope that it was all a horrible accident was not, in fact, true, and that Conor’s father realized his own role in not showing his son how to deal with anger effectively.

        I do understand the frustration with the lack of DV framing, but the end result is that McBride will serve 20 years in prison and the families have a better sense of what happened. I can’t say I really object to that outcome.

    2. Donna L
      Donna L January 9, 2013 at 11:25 am |

      “Mean-spirited”? How insufferably sanctimonious you are.

    3. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune January 9, 2013 at 11:42 am |

      Can’t read, can’t analyse, can’t stop being pompous?

      Ooh, must be Mansplaining Time!

    4. Drahill
      Drahill January 9, 2013 at 11:45 am |

      Uh, agency means the right to say what you want and direct your own life. So…yeah, dude, having agency means having the right to express yourself. It’s sorta fundamental.

      And you’ve never heard of righteous anger? You spend so much of your time here discussing your faith and you’ve never been exposed to the concept in the context of social action? You don’t see how somebody could espouse righteous anger at individual and societal failings to prevent a serious crime? Seriously, you need to do some reading about anger as motivator.

    5. A4
      A4 January 9, 2013 at 2:35 pm |

      I have no clue what your point is here.

    6. EG
      EG January 9, 2013 at 2:56 pm |

      But why do we always have to return to instances like these, which are provocative, often to no good end?

      Because men keep abusing, raping, and killing women. That’s why we always have to return to instances “like these.” They keep happening. Men keep doing this. I would fucking love not to have to return to “instances like these.” You just let me know when I have that option.

      And, aw, it hurts you that so many people have a “punitive” perspective on men who beat and kill their girlfriends? I’m so fucking sorry that our anger makes you uncomfortable. But guess what? That’s what anger is for.

      I strongly object to the idea that people whose anger is conventionally dismissed or suppressed are now supposed to “forgive” for yet another fucking reason. No. Deal with our anger. Accept that we’re angry. Maybe, after I’ve been angry for a while, and gotten what I want from my anger, I’ll decide to forgive. And maybe not.

    7. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan January 9, 2013 at 3:00 pm |

      “Lock ‘em up and throw away the key” can just as easily be turned against the person who espouses it.

      Oh, cry me the hugest river and play me the tiniest violin. If I fatally shoot my boyfriend, pleading for his life on his knees, in the head then please lock me up and throw away the key. Duh.

      1. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve January 11, 2013 at 7:36 pm |

        “Lock ‘em up and throw away the key” can just as easily be turned against the person who espouses it.

        Oh, cry me the hugest river and play me the tiniest violin. If I fatally shoot my boyfriend, pleading for his life on his knees, in the head then please lock me up and throw away the key. Duh.

        Bagelsan, I must admit this is actually the one bit I agree with Kevin on.

        I see the whole ‘throwing away the key’ thing as a bit of a logistical nightmare. You might need to get in to the cell for any number of reasons. Plus, if you throw away the key anyone could find it. In my opinion ‘lock em up and keep the key in a safe place’ is a much more effective strategy.

    8. Donna L
      Donna L January 9, 2013 at 3:19 pm |

      all anyone seems to want to do is salivate in Pavlovian fashion.

      And this. Fuck you. How fucking dare you be so dismissive? Please get lost, and don’t come back until you lose a whole lot of sanctimony, and think about exactly why this kind of thing makes women so angry.

      1. Donna L
        Donna L January 9, 2013 at 3:21 pm |

        And being socialized as a guy is no excuse for not getting it.

      2. Alexandra
        Alexandra January 9, 2013 at 10:31 pm |

        I really love it when people compare me to dogs. Comrade Kevin’s arrogance here is blinding – does he really think he’s the only person with interesting things to say, worthwhile things to say, on this topic? I would challenge him to listen critically for a few months here, but I know his type – his ilk has, shall I say, a knee-jerk need to bloviate.

    9. matlun
      matlun January 9, 2013 at 3:46 pm |

      No comment yet, save mine, has bothered to take on the whole of the piece, especially the section at the bottom. Instead, all anyone seems to want to do is salivate in Pavlovian fashion.

      People not agreeing with you does not necessarily mean that they have not read the piece or not considered your arguments. They may indeed have done so and come to the conclusion that you are wrong. Perhaps you should even consider the possibility that they might be right?

      You should have a bit more sensitivity and humility.
      And I think quite a few posters would agree that when even I am saying that, you should consider it carefully.

  29. ashley
    ashley January 9, 2013 at 11:20 am |

    I agree with the concern about how this process reinforces the idea that DV victims should forgive their abusers, and the problematic nature of restorative justice in a society that doesn’t value all of its members equally. However, I think that there are ways to improve the process in order to account for some of those issues.

    For example, as I was reading the article, I wondered why there wasn’t someone from a domestic violence organization at the actual conference. I know the prosecutor spoke with people about this afterward, but having someone working from an anti-DV perspective in the room while this was happening would better represent the needs of the community and the interests of the victim. Such a person could have listened to Conor’s version and then outlined his/her own concerns, which would also have done more to inform Anne’s parents about what they should ask for in terms of sentencing.

  30. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar January 9, 2013 at 11:57 am |

    I deal primarily with issues of rape. The biggest issue with the criminal justice system and rape, from where I stand, is the community in which it operates. Even if the judges and prosecutors and cops all do right by the victim, juries don’t. I don’t see how community-based or restorative justice operate to fix problems that are themselves community-based. The problems that need to be fixed are not in the systems, but in ourselves.

    Which is not much different from what many folks above, notably mackavitykitsune, have already pointed out.

    The area where I probably have the most specialized expertise in within kink communities, and my view is that there is absolutely no shortage of support for welcoming the abusers into the community. It’s there for the asking. What’s in very short supply is taking the victims seriously and preventing the abuser from reoffending.

    From where I stand, with the issues I focus on, forgiveness isn’t the solution. Forgiveness is the problem.

  31. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley January 9, 2013 at 12:07 pm |

    I have spent my whole life forgiving everyone for everything. I was abused emotionally by “friend” after “friend” and found myself not only forgiving them but asking for forgiveness for causing the abuse. One of the greatest steps in my mental healing was learning to not forgive.

    This article and this “judicial act of forgiveness” makes me so sick

  32. Glass
    Glass January 9, 2013 at 12:17 pm |

    “When the group returned to the circle, Conor continued. He didn’t try to shirk responsibility at the conference or in long conversations with me about the murder. “What I did was inexcusable,” he told me. “There is no why, there are no excuses, there is no reason.”

    Then the murderer turns around and says:

    “I don’t know what happened. I just — emotions were overwhelming.” He said he didn’t remember deciding to pull the trigger, but he recognizes that it wasn’t an accident, either.”

    Admitting that you did something is not the same as accepting responsibility for it and all this guy does is find soft ways of deflecting responsibility without it sounding like that’s what he’s doing.

    The article bothered me, a lot.

  33. Caperton
    Caperton January 9, 2013 at 12:20 pm | *

    I actually can understand Ann’s parents feeling that Conor McBride has committed an offense against them. He’s taken their daughter out of their lives. If someone were to murder The Boy (and I shudder just to think of it), that person would impose upon me a life that didn’t have The Boy in it, and that would be a terrible life. But nothing that could be done to the murderer would be able to change that life back to the one I had before, and I can understand the feeling that forgiveness might be the only way to get past that.

    However, creating an Ann-less life for her parents is minutely minor compared to the offense Conor committed against their daughter — i.e., murdering her — and they don’t get to forgive him for that because they’re not the victims there. And pretending that the disembodied voice of their comatose daughter gave them Power of Attorney to hand out forgiveness on her behalf is messed up. I’m not in their heads, so I can only guess at their motivations — denial that Conor could really be a murderer, guilt for not knowing about the ongoing DV, unwillingness to let go of this person who was connected to their daughter, unwillingness to let go of the person who was supposed to provide them with grandchildren, guilt at taking Ann off life support, just wanting all of it to be over with, I couldn’t tell you — but twisting the facts until Ann turned into Jesus and ordered her dad to forgive against his will isn’t a thing.

    No matter how many of Ann’s possessions her parents brought to the pre-plea conference to pretend she was there — which seems kind of messed up to me, by the way — she wasn’t actually there. She was dead. Because Conor McBride killed her. No matter how many times her parents held up a picture of her sticking out her tongue to indicate something “Ann wouldn’t like” — and seriously, how messed up is that? — they’re only really indicating what they wish she would have said, because she wasn’t there, because Conor McBride killed her. Her parents can forgive him ’til the cows come home for what he did to them, and it sounds like it’s bringing them peace, which is great. The circle appears to have negotiated a 20-year sentence for the crime of taking their daughter away from them. As for what Conor did to Ann — i.e., murder — it’s unforgivable purely because she’s the only one who could forgive him, but she isn’t really available to sit at the conference table to participate in the restorative-justice circle.

    None of which has anything to do with the issues Jill raised in her post, of course, but whatever, I have feels.

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune January 9, 2013 at 12:25 pm |

      I actually can understand Ann’s parents feeling that Conor McBride has committed an offense against them. He’s taken their daughter out of their lives.

      Except the words they chose to apply were not “offense committed” but “debt owed”. As if she was property.

      But nothing that could be done to the murderer would be able to change that life back to the one I had before, and I can understand the feeling that forgiveness might be the only way to get past that.

      Personally I’d start with murder and carry on from there, but what do I know? I’m just a destructively angry ladyperson who gets tsked at by Comrade Kevin and the Dalai Lama, two highly effective and intellectual male individuals I have the greatest respect for. (I may or may not be sarcastic here.)

      1. Caperton
        Caperton January 9, 2013 at 12:28 pm | *

        Totally and entirely with you. All I can do is understand the feelings they might be feeling; the words they’re saying and the actions they’re taking are beyond me.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune January 9, 2013 at 12:32 pm |

          Oh, yes, I totally understand, Caperton. And hey, you know, there have been people I have forgiven for shit and it’s helped our relationship a LOT. The power of personal forgiveness, woo! I’m down with that (in the presence of justifying things like, oh, remorse and amends). But that doesn’t entitle me to forgive, say, someone who hurts Valoniel (not that I’m really capable of that, I am a spectacularly grudgy person when it comes to her and the kid).

          (I’m so not disagreeing with a word you say, I just, I have so many Thinky Thoughts and Ragey Spews on this…)

        2. Donna L
          Donna L January 9, 2013 at 1:36 pm |

          I hear you, mac. Ragey is exactly the right word for how it makes me feel to read some of the self-righteous, condescending garbage that’s being spewed here. It’s all just another way of trying to silence those who actually empathize with the person who was murdered here, more than they do with the man who killed her.

        3. Donna L
          Donna L January 9, 2013 at 1:40 pm |

          I’ve spent most of my life hearing similarly insufferable (and sometimes contemptuous) advice to people in my position to “get over it already” about something that happened to millions of people, including very specific people in my family, within living memory. This largely from a group of people who still haven’t gotten over something that happened 2000 years ago to single person who may not even have existed. Does it make me angry? You bet!

        4. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune January 9, 2013 at 1:52 pm |

          I hear you, mac. Ragey is exactly the right word for how it makes me feel to read some of the self-righteous, condescending garbage that’s being spewed here.

          I am THIS fucking close to just descending into a stream of invective.

          This largely from a group of people who still haven’t gotten over something that happened 2000 years ago to single person who may not even have existed.

          No shit!

          And I’m so, so sorry that people tell you that about the Holocaust. O_O I can’t even imagine how people might do that! It is so far beyond fucked up.

          (And now I suddenly recall that the World History unit on WW2 in Indian school textbooks doesn’t really give any sense of the scale of the Holocaust beyond saying that Hitler killed a “lot of Jews”. I didn’t actually use that textbook to learn, and my mother had been very particular in impressing just how hideous it was, so it just slipped past my notice.

          Well that’s how they might do that. FUCK.)

    2. ashley
      ashley January 9, 2013 at 12:38 pm |

      I agree that framing this process in terms of the victim’s wishes is wrong – she can’t speak for herself, because she’s dead. On the other hand, nothing will change that fact and if this process can do something for the family – who is also suffering – it seems like a decent alternative. The rhetoric around the victim is problematic, but the needs of the family aren’t.

      I also don’t think that the traditional sentencing process presents a better alternative. This guy did something really horrible – does he deserve to go to jail for the rest of his life? What would the sentence have been if this had actually gone to court? I don’t know a lot about sentencing, but the prosecutor did tell the family that even a 5 year sentence was a possibility so it seems possible that the defendant could have received a 20-25 years anyway. In that case, isn’t this process better? The families, at least, were able to find some sort of healing that they might not have otherwise gotten.

      1. Lara Emily Foley
        Lara Emily Foley January 9, 2013 at 12:41 pm |

        Honestly? Yes he does, he does deserve to go to jail for life. He was an abuser who killed a pleading woman on her knees. Fuck this guy.

        1. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan January 9, 2013 at 2:58 pm |

          This has been another episode of “Easy Answers for Easy Questions.”

      2. EG
        EG January 9, 2013 at 3:02 pm |

        This guy did something really horrible – does he deserve to go to jail for the rest of his life?

        Yes. Yes, he does. Not only that, but the women he might come into contact with in the future and abuse deserve to be protected from him for the rest of his life. He is a danger to others and needs to be treated as such.

        1. Jadey
          Jadey January 9, 2013 at 3:29 pm |

          Not only that, but the women he might come into contact with in the future and abuse deserve to be protected from him for the rest of his life. He is a danger to others and needs to be treated as such.

          This is where I disagree. I don’t think there’s any solid evidence for assuming that Conor will do this again or that what he did was part of a cunning strategy of abuse, which seems to be what many people in this thread are assuming, or that long-term incarceration is a better strategy than rehabilitation for dealing with him.

          This is where I feel people are going too far in assuming that every single person who commits domestic abuse is an incorrigible serial abuser. I have met serial abusers and I have met people who did stupid things because they couldn’t think of any better way to deal with their lack of relationship competence. Both *do* exist, we *can* tell them apart and deal with them differently, because they are different groups of people. (I’m not going to comment on the relatively frequency of either, because I simply don’t know and neither does anyone else. I suspect that more of the cunning type are simply never caught and included in any official statistics, including victim surveys, if they are being subtle enough. People who end up in prison tend to be all-around bad at life and hardly the Hannibal Lecter type.)

          Look, we know long-term incarceration don’t work to reduce rates of domestic violence (or any other violent crime). We know this. It’s not a solution. (And neither is uncritical restorative justice, as I elaborated on in my initial comment above, which is why I’m not repeating it here.) Whereas we have started to learn what kinds of rehabilitative approaches can reduce DV and we are also working on creating more, better prevention programs.

          I think Comrade Kevin was being a complete asshole above, but he and I do agree that punitiveness isn’t getting us anywhere. I know where these response are coming from, but I can’t bring myself to agree with them. I think it’s just another flavour of all fucked up. Our criminal justice systems are abusive and destructive and NOT a solution to injustice and oppression.

        2. Drahill
          Drahill January 9, 2013 at 3:40 pm |

          Jadey: I think your point about “punitiveness isn’t getting us anywhere” is interesting. I think the primary question to be asked is “why does it have to get us anywhere?” Punishment pays lip service to deterence and all that, but at the end of the day, humans punish because we believe a serious wrong has been done and that the offender deserves to suffer for the actions. A man who would do what Conor did simply, I think, does not commit an act against a single woman (although she is the primary victim). He pays into a system that is built on the subjugation and harm of women. One could make a an argument that such an individual should not have the chance to reoffend.

          Another problem with the rehabilitative model is that is largely relies upon the input of the offender and largely is not effective often for those reasons. Conor’s anger-management means absolutely nothing, since domestic violence has never, ever been an anger issue. Its a misogyny issue. The problem is, thus, there is no evidence other than his own words that Conor less likely to offend now. Then the question becomes “what duty does society owe to those who will encounter Conor when he gets out?”

          I think that in cases where the offender is nonviolent, there is an argument that prison is a poor treatment (and also whether anger for certain offenses is even justified). However, in the case of homicide preceded by domestic violence, I think arguments for rehabilitation fall apart, largely because there is little to no rehabilitation that can address the underlying issues.

        3. EG
          EG January 9, 2013 at 3:47 pm |

          We know this is a pattern for him, because his behavior to Grosmaire was an escalating pattern of violence. We know it’s an abuse and misogyny problem because it was limited to her.

          If it were an anger management problem, he would have been pegged by other people–including her family–long ago. I’ve known people with actual anger management problems. My father, for instance, lost jobs and lost friends, but he never once hit my mother.

          I’m not advocating we lock him up until he’s “better” (rehabilitation). I’m advocating we lock him up for life, thus protecting women who would otherwise encounter him.

        4. Jadey
          Jadey January 9, 2013 at 4:05 pm |

          I think the primary question to be asked is “why does it have to get us anywhere?”

          Because at the end of the day what I care about most is, “What can we do that will lead to less offending/reoffending? How can we reduce and eliminate harm?” I think punishment for punishment’s own sake, especially as an expression of distal *social* disapproval, is ultimately self-defeating and wasteful.

          Another problem with the rehabilitative model is that is largely relies upon the input of the offender and largely is not effective often for those reasons.

          Cards on the table, my field of work is peripherally related to the development of rehabilitation programs in correctional settings. I have seen firsthand the research being done on creating programs that *are* effective (for various crimes, but violent crimes are in there as well). None of the strategies is perfect, but progress is being made – better programs can lead to less re-offending. I believe we need to invest more effort into this area in order to do a better job of figuring out what *will* work and implementing it effectively. (And I personally firmly believe that a critical social lens is imperative for this as well, which is why I wish I would see more cooperation between researchers and activists, and more researcher-activists.)

          So when you tell me, “rehabilitation is largely not effective”, I say, “Bullshit – badly conceived or badly implemented rehabilitation programs are largely not effective. That’s not the same thing as saying there’s no point in rehabilitating.”

          To the extent that punitive goals actively interfere with effective rehabilitation, I say that pursing these goals is unethical and harmful. Again, especially when these punitive goals are about making society feel better about having made some stereotypical boogey-man of an offender “pay” than actually doing something to address *OUR* accountability in facilitating violence. (Which is what the legacy of criminal justice punitiveness is. It’s not about helping victims or preventing future crimes.)

          Conor’s anger-management means absolutely nothing, since domestic violence has never, ever been an anger issue. Its a misogyny issue.

          An over-simplification. It’s true that anger management is not the silver bullet for all DV, as the research cited by previous commenters covers (and which I am already familiar with), but the general does not always apply to the specific. In Conor’s case, anger management training may be an important step in his rehabilitation process, if emotional control and dealing with relationship conflict is something he doesn’t have. Frankly, there’s not enough information in a single article for any of us to be making that judgement call. That’s why I hate when issues are reduced to a single case and then used to talk about broad trends. I’m so sick of issues being reduced to a single point because it makes addressing them impossible, even when I agree that the particular point being highlighted is one which shouldn’t be ignored and historically has been. But to say that all DV is nothing but misogyny, as if misogyny or DV were some simple concise thing, is stupid.

          The problem is, thus, there is no evidence other than his own words that Conor less likely to offend now.

          And there’s no evidence to the contrary. That’s my point. In this article, there’s no evidence. We just don’t fucking know. Although frankly the fact that he was so up front about everything, including turning himself in and taking full responsibility for his actions, does actually bode pretty well, when you know what most abusers sound like when they are denying and justifying every damn thing in sight.

          I’m more than a little fucking angry about the constant defeatism, especially when I fucking KNOW that we can get somewhere with this. I’m pretty angry at myself too, as a researcher feeling like I’m failing at my job of getting the knowledge out to people that meaningful rehabilitation isn’t impossible, because without the community buy-in, we’re never going to really succeed.

        5. A4
          A4 January 9, 2013 at 4:09 pm |

          I really don’t think the problems with our punitive justice system stem from locking up too many men who murder their significant others.

          Jadey, I think that your blanket statements regarding the effect of punitive measures on rates of domestic violence are severely lacking because they don’t take into account the fact that our current punitive system applies itself in incredibly misogynist ways. Like, how, for instance, this murdered doesn’t receive the full force of it like someone less privileged would.

          You want some solid evidence that Conor might shoot a woman who has upset him? Well, there’s the fact that he once shot a woman who upset him.

        6. Jadey
          Jadey January 9, 2013 at 4:16 pm |

          @ EG, we’re getting different things out of the article, then, because I don’t see the evidence you’re referring to. I don’t see any indication either way that he didn’t also struggle with anger in other relationships, but it would make sense that the relationship in which it would be the most prominent would be his most difficult and intimate one. Nineteen-year-old teenagers in their first serious relationship do pretty fucking stupid things, especially when their model for that specific kind of interpersonal relationships is one of violence and bad communication. Different people have different relationships that are trigger points. Some people have more trouble with workplace relationships, others with family relationships, others with intimate relationships. It’s still conceivable that AMT could be helpful to Conor, although I’d love to know more about the specific program he’s participating in and how he accessed it, because for all we know the journalist isn’t even reporting on it accurately, or if they just used the term that was most familiar to them. (If I sound extra cynical about that right now, it’s because in the last couple of weeks I have been misquoted by a journalist in just such a way.)

          I’m not saying anything to absolve him of what he did. I just see no way of getting definitive information second- and third-hand from a *journalist* about his actual patterns of abuse and whether he presents as a risk to be a serial abuser or not. There are people who are far better trained and more specialized than I who would do a much better job of this from actually meeting and formally assessing Conor. The rest of this is just arms-length guesswork.

          Life-long incarceration is inhumane, wasteful, and not part of any criminal justice system I would support. It’s a shitty, stupid approach to specific deterrence that does an enormous amount of harm because of the inherent injustice and abusiveness of our criminal justice systems.

        7. matlun
          matlun January 9, 2013 at 4:44 pm |

          @Jadey: According to his own testimony, he shot her in the head while she was on her knees begging for her life. You do not think that is enough to lock him up for life?

          I think it is.

          I do agree about deterrence. Research shows that after you have reached a long prison sentence, there is no practical difference in deterrence. So 15 years, life, or even death makes no difference from this perspective.

          But both from an incapacitation perspective as well as a just punishment perspective my position is that he should never be allowed out into society again.

          And more generally

          Life-long incarceration is inhumane, wasteful, and not part of any criminal justice system I would support.

          Is this really your general position? Or just in reference to this case? You do not think this is the appropriate response even for [fill in the worst criminal you can think of].

        8. EG
          EG January 9, 2013 at 4:49 pm |

          Jadey, the work that you’ve been doing sounds really interesting. Are there any pieces you can link to without compromising your anonymity? I ask because last time I looked up studies, they were quite negative, and I’d love to read something more hopeful.

        9. White Rabbit
          White Rabbit January 9, 2013 at 5:22 pm |

          @Jadey

          You wrote:

          So when you tell me, “rehabilitation is largely not effective”, I say, “Bullshit – badly conceived or badly implemented rehabilitation programs are largely not effective. That’s not the same thing as saying there’s no point in rehabilitating.”

          As far as I’m aware – and I’ve done a fair amount of digging on this subject – rehabilitation/recidivism rates for DV offenders are still abysmal. Is there something you can point us to, whether a link online or a book/reseearch available offline, that indicates otherwise?

        10. sabrina
          sabrina January 9, 2013 at 5:27 pm |

          Jadey,
          a punitive system which actually locks someone up for life without any chance of them getting out would be effective at stopping that specific person from committing DV again because guess what they are in jail for the rest of their rotten lives. IMO this is the only effective strategy for dealing with violent criminals. The rest of us who don’t go around committing violent crimes should not have to encounter these people.

        11. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia January 9, 2013 at 5:51 pm |

          @matlun

          “Research shows that after you have reached a long prison sentence, there is no practical difference in deterrence. So 15 years, life, or even death makes no difference from this perspective.”

          So why do you, and others, choose the sentence that is most taxing on society? If there is no practical difference, execute him, or give him 15 years, but don’t store him for 40 or 50+ years. It doesn’t help society, it doesn’t help the victim, and it doesn’t help him.

        12. matlun
          matlun January 9, 2013 at 6:01 pm |

          @RadiantSophia: The reason I do not think execution is the best option is that I do not want to give the death penalty as an option to the justice system/the state. The risk of convicting innocents weighs heavily for me. Even for life in prison, even the chance of later release creates a significant difference.

          Life in prison helps the rest of society in that he will not be able commit further crimes (incapacitation) and I think there is also an argument from the “just punishment” perspective. Ie the severity of the punishment should match the severity of the crime.

        13. Meropi
          Meropi January 9, 2013 at 6:03 pm |

          @Jadey
          Agree with everything you said in this thread. Thank you.

        14. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia January 9, 2013 at 6:24 pm |

          @matlun

          But in this case, we know, for a fact, that he did it. I think execution is the most humane sentence that can be given here. I think life imprisonment is far crueler than execution.

          If he is truly tormented by guilt over what he has done. If he understands the burden he can never repay, isn’t it better to execute him to relieve him of that burden than it is to allow him to exist in prison for 50+ years. Life imprisonment IS punitive, I would argue, for him.

          If he is simply a sociopath, showing the emotions necessary to receive a lighter sentence. These people can’t be rehabilitated. It is in societies best interest to execute him.

          This isn’t punitive, it isn’t an angry reaction. I believe it is in everyone’s best interest (including his) that he be executed.

        15. Donna L
          Donna L January 9, 2013 at 6:36 pm |

          Even our system doesn’t execute people for unpremeditated homicide.

        16. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan January 9, 2013 at 9:09 pm |

          But in this case, we know, for a fact, that he did it. I think execution is the most humane sentence that can be given here. I think life imprisonment is far crueler than execution.

          Sure, but that’s exactly why we should not execute anyone who’s committed a really awful crime; it’s both kinder and more expensive. Both of those attributes offend me! Let them slowly age out of their miserable lives in a cell –hopefully with maximal guilt– without society paying for their endless appeals process.

        17. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia January 9, 2013 at 9:45 pm |

          Bagelsan,

          No appeals, he confessed. It would be cheaper to execute him.

          I’m also confused as to how humane treatment is offensive to you. Regardless of what he did, we, as human beings have a duty to treat him humanely. Would you prefer he be tortured for your benefit? I understand that you want him to suffer, but suffering doesn’t help anybody. It won’t bring her back, It won’t help the parents, It won’t make him better. A quick, painless execution I still think is the best solution.

        18. Drahill
          Drahill January 10, 2013 at 9:14 am |

          Jadey, I think you’ve greatly oversimplified things. First, you argue that punitive measures are harmful to the extent they interfer in rehabilitation. However, you’re still operating off the premise that rehab is DESIREABLE and, morem importantly, ACHIEVABLE for all offenders. It is not. My background was largely in criminal pathology. I can assure you that rehab only works when certain criteria are met: 1.) Offender must know they were wrong. Many offenders can do this, but many others continually seek to blame external forces. 2.) Offender must take afirmative steps to seek out the roots of the behavior. Conor clearly isn’t doing this, since he still cannot contect his abusive behavior to his sexism.

          The criminal justice system releases the majority of its inhabitants at some point. Thus, rehabilitation is a good goal insofar as these people are getting out anyway, so it makes sense to at least try to rehab them in some way. However, your insistence that rehab should be the overaraching goal ignores a lot of realities. I’ve met quite a few offenders in my background. I can say with some certainty that, among the violent ones, at least half of them were bad rehabilitation candidates because they either felt no regret at all, blamed external forces for their actions or felt bad only insofar as they felt the consequences. These people are not good rehab candidates. They were candidates for punitive measures, which is surely the lesser of the two options, but must remain an option.

          You also undercut yourself with your insistence that anger management can help DV. Anger is the shield that domestic abusers use. The assumption is that if they can control their anger, they will not abuse. However, as its been noted above, a man who chronically abused his girlfriend and then killed her might have an anger problem, but his major issue is that he’s a misogynist (and don’t try to argue that not all men who routinely abuse women aren’t, because they certainly are). His anger is a convienant front that allows him to act on his feelings, it is not the cause. Conor can have all the anger management he wants, it will not be effective (and anger management as a therapy for offenders overall has an abysmal fail rate – I wonder why?). Conor needs to work out his misogyny before anything else. That’s the only way women can ever effectively be safe from him again.

        19. matlun
          matlun January 10, 2013 at 11:17 am |

          @Radiant Sophia: The pros and cons of the death penalty is perhaps a bit off topic, but for me it is a matter of principle. Ie IMO it should never be a possible alternative available to the justice system. The risks and consequences of misuse are just too great.

      3. Ashley
        Ashley January 9, 2013 at 4:15 pm |

        does he deserve to go to jail for the rest of his life?

        Yes. For two reasons 1) We can’t risk him doing this again. 2) We can’t risk telling other men that they can kill their partner and not go to jail for life. True restorative justice is restorative to the entire community.

    3. EG
      EG January 9, 2013 at 3:04 pm |

      No matter how many times her parents held up a picture of her sticking out her tongue to indicate something “Ann wouldn’t like” — and seriously, how messed up is that?

      For real. If some scumbag boyfriend of mine murders me and my parents bring anything but an icepick or a gun to meet him, I would be shocked and horrified. Except, of course, I wouldn’t, because what I would be would be dead.

      1. Angie unduplicated
        Angie unduplicated January 10, 2013 at 11:52 am |

        Yes!
        How could this be unpremeditated, since he did load a gun and that would indicate intent. All we have is his word that it wasn’t premeditated, and he claims he conveniently doesn’t remember events leading up to the shooting. Gun use and ownership should never get this free pass on human death, never mind what the legal system thinks.
        I’d call any misogyny murder premeditated, since the perp allowed and cultivated attitudes which led to DV and killing.

    4. A4
      A4 January 9, 2013 at 3:16 pm |

      No matter how many times her parents held up a picture of her sticking out her tongue to indicate something “Ann wouldn’t like” — and seriously, how messed up is that?

      GROOOOOOOSSSSSSSSS

      I love my mom and dad. They are wonderful, but they would never ever ever be able to accurately predict my responses in any highly emotional situation, ESPECIALLY the situation in which my boyfriend shot me point blank while I pleaded for my life.

      My biggest problem with all the discussion here is how quickly Ann stops being a person. How fast her parents convert her into a concept of innocence, or Jesus, or her stuff, or “their daughter” (read: property) instead of Ann fucking Grosmaire, a person with secret thoughts and feelings and plans that no one but her can know. A person who felt confused about things, and angry about stuff, and sometimes behaved irrationally, and sometimes said the smartest thing in the room, and sometimes did really really well, and sometimes fucked up, and sometimes fell asleep because she was super tired, and expected to keep doing these things until she was old and fucking gray.

      So now there’s an article in the NYT that begins with a huge picture of her murderer gazing soulfully into the camera and Ann is nowhere to be seen on the front page. The article confronts the reader with the murderer’s humanity and a description of his dramatic confession, making it clear to the reader: “THIS is the person in the story. THIS is who we need to think about now. THIS MAN’S LIFE IS AT STAKE”

      And this theme has been perpetuated in a lot of these comments (not yours Caperton, obvi) where people say things like “she’s dead, but nothing can change that sooooo, time to focus on her murderer!” or “Once I’m dead I would hope my parents would do whatever necessary to find peace” and a bunch of other things that all support the sentiment of WHOOPS, WELL NOW THAT SHE’S GONE TIME TO MOVE ON, CAN’T CHANGE HER BEING DEAD, IN FACT, IF YOU CONTINUE TO BE ANGRY THEN YOU’RE ONLY PERPETUATING THE HURT AND DESTROYING YOURSELF.

      This story only serves to further illustrate to me how centered my society is around straight white men and the things that they do, feel, and say. The first paragraph describing his confession doesn’t even name Ann Grosmaire, but manages to give us a description of the murderer’s sandy hair and his outfit. Ann is his “fiancee”.

      “Whoops!” he says “I killed the one they gave me! My bad!”

      Restorative Justice, like all purported tools of anti-oppression, will be used to help the people my society already goes out of its way to help. In this case, it’s being used to restore the reputation and status of one of the most valued members of my society: the straight, white, USian, christian cismen.

      Ann Grosmaire is not Jesus, and is not just someone’s little angel. She was far greater than those things. She was a human being who Conor McBride murdered, and I have no problem being angry at her murderer for as long as he gets to enjoy life while the woman he murdered is dead.

      1. Lara Emily Foley
        Lara Emily Foley January 9, 2013 at 5:25 pm |

        GROOOOOOOSSSSSSSSS

        I love my mom and dad. They are wonderful, but they would never ever ever be able to accurately predict my responses in any highly emotional situation, ESPECIALLY the situation in which my boyfriend shot me point blank while I pleaded for my life.

        My biggest problem with all the discussion here is how quickly Ann stops being a person. How fast her parents convert her into a concept of innocence, or Jesus, or her stuff, or “their daughter” (read: property) instead of Ann fucking Grosmaire, a person with secret thoughts and feelings and plans that no one but her can know. A person who felt confused about things, and angry about stuff, and sometimes behaved irrationally, and sometimes said the smartest thing in the room, and sometimes did really really well, and sometimes fucked up, and sometimes fell asleep because she was super tired, and expected to keep doing these things until she was old and fucking gray.

        So now there’s an article in the NYT that begins with a huge picture of her murderer gazing soulfully into the camera and Ann is nowhere to be seen on the front page. The article confronts the reader with the murderer’s humanity and a description of his dramatic confession, making it clear to the reader: “THIS is the person in the story. THIS is who we need to think about now. THIS MAN’S LIFE IS AT STAKE”

        And this theme has been perpetuated in a lot of these comments (not yours Caperton, obvi) where people say things like “she’s dead, but nothing can change that sooooo, time to focus on her murderer!” or “Once I’m dead I would hope my parents would do whatever necessary to find peace” and a bunch of other things that all support the sentiment of WHOOPS, WELL NOW THAT SHE’S GONE TIME TO MOVE ON, CAN’T CHANGE HER BEING DEAD, IN FACT, IF YOU CONTINUE TO BE ANGRY THEN YOU’RE ONLY PERPETUATING THE HURT AND DESTROYING YOURSELF.

        This story only serves to further illustrate to me how centered my society is around straight white men and the things that they do, feel, and say. The first paragraph describing his confession doesn’t even name Ann Grosmaire, but manages to give us a description of the murderer’s sandy hair and his outfit. Ann is his “fiancee”.

        “Whoops!” he says “I killed the one they gave me! My bad!”

        Restorative Justice, like all purported tools of anti-oppression, will be used to help the people my society already goes out of its way to help. In this case, it’s being used to restore the reputation and status of one of the most valued members of my society: the straight, white, USian, christian cismen.

        Ann Grosmaire is not Jesus, and is not just someone’s little angel. She was far greater than those things. She was a human being who Conor McBride murdered, and I have no problem being angry at her murderer for as long as he gets to enjoy life while the woman he murdered is dead.

        You just said everything I was thinking. Thank you

  34. EG
    EG January 9, 2013 at 3:10 pm |

    I really don’t like the idea of a justice system that even “encourages” forgiveness, as if forgiveness were some general virtue. Forgiveness is a personal decision on the part of the people who have been wronged, and sometimes it may be warranted, and sometimes it may not be, and sometimes it may be a good idea, and sometimes it may be a bad one.

    I have yet to see any really convincing argument against righteous anger. They all seem to boil down to either “anger is bad for you,” which, thanks, but I’ll be the judge of that, and I cherish my anger, or “anger makes other people uncomfortable,” which, yes, that’s the point.

    Women are always supposed to be forgiving. When our culture shows it can take my anger seriously and accept it as a normal, natural response to being continuously harassed, dismissed, and condescended to, then my anger will have served its purpose and I will no longer need it. Until then, fuck that. Anger is the natural response to being systematically attacked. Don’t want me to be angry? Stop attacking me.

    1. A4
      A4 January 9, 2013 at 4:11 pm |

      I’ve been kind of long-winded on this thread, so I’ll just say:

      WORD.

    2. Donna L
      Donna L January 9, 2013 at 5:40 pm |

      Anger is the natural response to being systematically attacked. Don’t want me to be angry? Stop attacking me.

      Thank you. This, so much. It’s how I feel about a number of things.

    3. White Rabbit
      White Rabbit January 9, 2013 at 5:53 pm |

      Love this and fully agree.

      It took me faaar too long to reach these same conclusions about righteous anger, as I was over-invested in placating the people around me and misinterpreted their discomfort as evidence that it was unhealthy. Embracing my righteous anger, and standing up for it when necessary, has made me a much happier person.

  35. Daily Feminist Cheat Sheet
    Daily Feminist Cheat Sheet January 9, 2013 at 5:00 pm |

    [...] I agree with Jill on this important but also troubling piece in the New York Times on restorative justice and the [...]

  36. maggie d
    maggie d January 9, 2013 at 5:24 pm |

    this issue is very near and dear to my heart, because my older sister posted this on fb being enthusiastic about it… because my father is a worker in the restorative justice network, trying very hard to get it implimented. I also was emotionally and sexually abused growing up, and still struggle a huge amount about it. so my alarms immediately were raised when I saw my sister endorsing this article in the ny times… something is just horribly “off” about it… although restorative justice is lovely, i don’t know if in this case even it would be sufficient to understand the extent of the problem in anyone’s case. thanks for writing this

  37. AMM
    AMM January 9, 2013 at 6:44 pm |

    One of the things that is bothering me about this story, and about some of the victims’ rights stuff, is that it seems to me to be moving society back to having crime be a private matter between the criminal and the victim (or the victim’s family and friends.)

    This is a step backwards.

    First of all, it attacks the idea of consistent consequences for crimes (“if you do the crime, you got to do the time.”) All of a sudden, your punishment depends on how well you can con the victim or his/her family, or how effective the victim and family are at using the system. Punishment is capricious enough as it is.

    It also presumes that only the official victim (and family) are injured. But when someone is murdered, or robbed, or raped, or defrauded, everybody is harmed, because it forces every one of us to be more suspicious and to limit our lives in self-protection, especially if we can’t trust the State to catch and appropriately punish the offender.

    It was a great step forward in many ways when societies began to treat crimes against any of their citizens as crimes against them all. I’m concerned that we may as a society be backing away from this.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L January 9, 2013 at 6:50 pm |

      Agreed. I don’t think people would be too happy if we started going backwards through weregild and ended up back at private blood vengeance as the societal mechanism for punishment.

      1. Bagelsan
        Bagelsan January 9, 2013 at 9:05 pm |

        Old school justice, hmm? Vengeance schmengeance! If this murderer just paid Ann’s parents a few bucks to make up for offing their daughter they’d be okie-dokie. That’s old school.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune January 10, 2013 at 1:46 am |

          I suggest thirty pieces of silver. Just to stick with the Jesus theme.

    2. EG
      EG January 9, 2013 at 9:51 pm |

      All of a sudden, your punishment depends on how well you can con the victim or his/her family, or how effective the victim and family are at using the system.

      It also depends on your victim being loved and valued by her family. Is that what we’re going for? That the death of somebody with a good relationship with her parents, who is loved by many is more important than the death of somebody estranged from her family? Justice should not be a popularity contest.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune January 9, 2013 at 10:04 pm |

        “Your restorative justice Remorse Essay and Videotaped Crying Session now has 500 Facebook likes! Congratulations! You have knocked four (4) years off your sentence!”

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune January 9, 2013 at 10:05 pm |

          >.< …and now I really want to flesh out this dystopian future into a short story. My brain is clearly warped.

        2. EG
          EG January 9, 2013 at 10:19 pm |

          I’d read the hell out of that story, Mac!

        3. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia January 9, 2013 at 10:21 pm |

          I like this. I think i may have to steal this idea for my gaming group (if o.k.).

        4. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune January 9, 2013 at 11:01 pm |

          Heh, I just might write it, then! And link it, and stuff, lol.

        5. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune January 9, 2013 at 11:05 pm |

          And Sophia, go right ahead!

    3. AMM
      AMM January 10, 2013 at 10:47 am |

      The following linked post says what I meant to say better than I did:
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/publiccatholic/2013/01/forgiveness-murder-and-the-law/

      (H/T to the blog “Alas, a Blog” for the link.)

      1. Datdamwuf
        Datdamwuf January 10, 2013 at 11:06 am |

        thank you for the link AMN, I agree with most of it.

  38. Elemcee
    Elemcee January 9, 2013 at 7:33 pm |

    Apart from all the other excellent points raised in these comments, is anyone else troubled that, per the orignal article, Conor’s preferred author in the prison library is George R. R. Martin, the author of the “Game of Thrones” series? Interesting that someone who claims to take responsibility for summarily executing a woman on her knees would make this choice. In this particular author’s work, women are generally objects to sell, purchase, rape, sodomize, abuse and/or kill. Anger management, my a$$.

    1. A4
      A4 January 9, 2013 at 9:32 pm |

      Yes. I did notice this, I thought it was gross, and I’m glad you mentioned it.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune January 9, 2013 at 9:38 pm |

        Ditto.

    2. Alexandra
      Alexandra January 9, 2013 at 10:04 pm |

      Saw that too. Creeped me out as well.

    3. White Rabbit
      White Rabbit January 9, 2013 at 10:15 pm |

      I saw that detail and wondered, but not being familiar with the books or show, I filed it away as something to look into later. Thank you for the context. UGH.

    4. Chataya
      Chataya January 9, 2013 at 11:27 pm |

      More broadly speaking, the series is also about a small number of powerful white men who successfully manipulate and control the people around them. Suuuuper creepy.

  39. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan January 9, 2013 at 9:04 pm |

    This whole restorative group circle jerk hug between the murderer and the family reminds me of the “difficult and beautiful conversations” that what’s-her-face had with her rapist friend. Sickening.

    Why are we so damn keen to focus on the well-being and personal growth of some white, middle-class, male perp when they, yanno, just did something horrible and permanent to another human being? Maybe we should focus more on the “difficult and beautiful conversations” that Ann will never ever have because she is now dead. Those are the important conversations.

    1. (BFing)Sarah
      (BFing)Sarah January 10, 2013 at 5:41 pm |

      Well said.

  40. Karen
    Karen January 9, 2013 at 9:44 pm |

    I consider myself one of the lucky victims. I actually got to face my molester and rapist in court and read a victim impact statement. Most victims never get to do that. Of course, he didn’t get any actual prison time (he pled guilty to part of the charges, the crimes he committed happened a long time ago, he threatened to committ suicide if they incarcerated him, there was no evidence he had done it to anyone else, and he is my half-brother). The reason I mention the last bit about him being my half-brother is it seems to me that society tends to gloss over sex crimes and murders even more than it does already if the perpetrator is related somehow to the victim, rather than being a stranger. Now I would think, having worked with DV victims and dealing with DV in my own life, that the betrayal of trust when the perp is a family member or supposed friend makes the crime that much worse, but that could just be my own skewed perspective as a victim. After all, I am permanently screwed up from what he did–I have chronic PTSD, don’t feel completely safe in my own home and never will, will probably never manage to sustain an intimate relationship long enough to get married/have kids, fear sex, fear going to the gynecologist, am easily overwhelmed at work so my career’s been stunted. No, there’s been no cost to society due to how he victimized me. None whatsoever. I’m sure, Jadey, that he can be rehabilitated, that he’s one of the perps you just know isn’t going to commit another atrocity–what are you, psychic and immune to a sociopath’s charm? I should let go of my anger, Comrade Kevin, I really should–except I’ve worked in the DV field, and 99% of these cases never seem to make it to trial because the victims get scared. I wonder why? Maybe it’s because they have no community support to pursue justice and so many telling them that it would just be better if they swept it all under the rug. That rug is bulked up to ceiling now, with all the lost lives that have been swept under it.

    1. (BFing)Sarah
      (BFing)Sarah January 10, 2013 at 5:46 pm |

      I’m glad you said this, Karen. Saying I’m sorry you had to go through that is so meaningless in the face of what you dealt with, but I’m saying it anyway.

    2. A4
      A4 January 10, 2013 at 7:21 pm |

      I have so much respect for the strength of this comment. Thank you.

  41. evil fizz
    evil fizz January 9, 2013 at 10:03 pm | *

    While acknowledging that the current US sentencing system is an absolute mess most of the time*, I remain very troubled by the idea that state-sanctioned consequences to an accused are mediated by the feelings of the victim(s) or their families. I’m not comfortable with the idea of a larger system where the severity of a sentence depends on the attitude of others towards forgiveness.

    (Victim impact statements in sentencing and parole are both relatively new concepts in American jurisprudence, and I am deeply conflicted about those too.)

    I also find it extremely interesting that Ann’s parents wanted a lighter sentence until they heard more about what actually happened. I think that in their minds, it was more of a terrible accident fueled by anger and frustration. Hearing what was still probably a sanitized version of the truth changed them and their ideas on sentence, which I think speaks to the degree to which they wanted so badly to believe it wasn’t as awful as it was.

    *i.e., hamstrung by sentencing guidelines, incredibly disparate as applied with respect to race, etc.

    1. Miriam
      Miriam January 10, 2013 at 2:04 am |

      I’d like to know when and how they learned about the previous abuse. Did they know that Conor had hit their daughter multiple times before the circle? Did that detail come out in the circle? Is that something they learned after the fact? I was talking about this case on a different board and went back to confirm what was said about the domestic abuse… it’s just a short sentence on page SEVEN!

  42. Alexandra
    Alexandra January 9, 2013 at 10:13 pm |

    I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this, and had a long conversation about it with a family member who’s big into philosophy and ethics.

    Some thoughts —

    Often we are called upon to sympathize or empathize with a criminal. The underlying idea I see defended is that it is impossible to judge a criminal without understanding that criminal, and that it is impossible to understand a criminal without entering into what they were thinking and feeling when they committed the crime. I agree with this as far as it goes, but from a feminist standpoint I think one of the major ways in which misogyny manifests itself in American culture (and in the world) is in people’s willingness to extend sympathy to abusers and domestic violence perpetrators, and our skepticism, even hostility, toward victims of abuse. Abusers do not suffer from a lack of sympathy in our society.

    Second, while I agree broadly with the notion that we should be careful not to ascribe some crimes as monstrous, and their perpetrators as by definition monsters, because in so doing we make ourselves less likely to admit that these crimes are committed commonly, and by people whom we know (and, often, by people whom we love, or are fond of). Admitting that monstrous crimes are committed by “ordinary” people, and that all of us have the capacity to commit evil acts, is important – it is useful when thinking about WHY abuse and domestic violence is so prevalent.

    But I do not think it is particularly useful in sentencing, in judging someone who has committed a crime. Think of it like this: what do you do when you have a rotten apple? If the rot is not too bad, you pare it away, and save the apple. The apple is blemished, but still usable. All apples have the capacity to rot. But if the rot goes too deep – if the apple is rotten to the core – then we throw the apple away, and we wash ourselves to get the rot, the contamination, off of ourselves. When do we say that a person is so rotten that rehabilitation is not a legitimate end any longer?

    I do not know whether Conor McBride could be rehabilitated. Probably he could; he is not a war criminal at Neuremberg, not a cult leader. With sufficient counseling, training, restitution, he might be salvaged. But why should we expend our time, resources, on salvaging him? And not on salvaging the lives of people who are the victims of abuse, and who have just as great a need – and a greater claim – on all of that counseling and training and all of those services, all of that attention.

    The counter-argument, of course, is that abusers have to be let out of prison some time, unless one buys into the American notion that perpetrators of serious crimes ought be killed or buried in prison for the rest of their lives (a notion I am skeptical of, generally). And if abusers are going to be let out, we want to “fix” them and make them safe.

    But really – why DO we focus on second chances for abusers, and not on second chances for the victims of abuse? Because, echoing Ta-Nehisi Coates’s formulation, we have broad sympathy for the perpetrators of abuse, and broad skepticism for abusers’ victims.

    1. EG
      EG January 10, 2013 at 8:13 am |

      I don’t agree that we’re all capable of monstrous acts. I think that some people, many people make a conscious decisions and so simply wouldn’t commit monstrous acts.

      1. Datdamwuf
        Datdamwuf January 10, 2013 at 10:57 am |

        I agree with you that some people cannot commit monstrous acts, however, I just watched this Ted Talk and it give me pause. It also makes it more difficult to determine who is truly monstrous/without conscience from those who did something evil. At the same time I was surprised the speaker didn’t recognize that it was a woman who pointed out the horror of his experiment when he became wrapped up in it.

        See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsFEV35tWsg

      2. Alexandra
        Alexandra January 10, 2013 at 2:01 pm |

        You know, EG, we’ve disagreed about this before. Everything in my personal experience, growing up in abusive family and witnessing myself, to my horror, mimicking the behavior of abusive family members, disagrees with your assessment. Of course, anecdotes are not evidence, so I would then turn to notorious experiments like the notorious Stanley Milgram Obedience tests, or the Stanford Prison Experiment.

        All I know is, for myself, I have to be constantly watchful. I do not have the luxury of saying to myself, “I am not made of monstrous stuff; I would never commit such deeds” — because in a fundamental sense I am made of the same stuff as the people who have harmed and abused my brother and I. They are my parents — they birthed me and raised me. What is in my power are my choices; but I must constantly examine and interrogate my reactions to stress, to fear, to anger. I must always watch myself.

        1. EG
          EG January 10, 2013 at 8:15 pm |

          Yes, I know about the Milgram experiments–and 1/3 of the participants refused. As a society, we could study their psychological make-up and figure out how to encourage those qualities.

          But I have anecdotal experience, too, having to do with abusive family members, and my conclusions run counter to yours. I know there are certain monstrous acts I would never, ever engage in, and I know this by watching people who have engaged in them and noting ongoing and systemic differences in behavior and life choices. And it’s as easy to find examples in history as well.

    2. Angie unduplicated
      Angie unduplicated January 10, 2013 at 11:58 am |

      Not to mention the small financial problem that the perp gets all of this counseling on the taxpayer’s dime while vics, much if not most of the time, pay their own, and then have their health insurance jacked around because they required counseling.
      I see no mention of any of this in their restorative male-arkey.

  43. Rebecca
    Rebecca January 9, 2013 at 10:29 pm |

    While I have no problems with this type of justice in general, I am not sure it works too well with 1st degree murder. I, personally, think the problem in this case has more to do with religion. I have no problem with the parents being forgiving. Everyone gets to make their own choice about that. However, I don’t like the notion that somehow forgiveness, or the ability to forgive someone for a horrible crime, makes you a “better” person than someone who wouldn’t forgive for the same crime. In my experience with Christianity, forgiveness was always touted as the ultimate thing to do. If you didn’t forgive someone who wronged you then you were the one with a “heart issue”. Not only were you the victim, but you were also in the wrong for you failure to forgive.

    If someone commits a wrong against you, you are under no obligation to forgive them. You are the victim. You should not feel pressure to forgive if you’re still hurt or angry. If you chose to forgive, that is your choice, but forgiving your attacker does not make you any better of a person than someone who doesn’t forgive. I hate the notion that you are obligated to forgive someone who has wronged you, whether it was a serious offense or a minor disagreement.

    1. Angie unduplicated
      Angie unduplicated January 10, 2013 at 12:02 pm |

      I’ve read that Alibible. In reality, Jesus forgave that thief on his death-cross/deathbed, and counseled that one was to forgive “his brother seventy times seven” if the brother had bottomed out, in our words and asked for forgiveness at that point.
      Fundies want to hew to the letter of that book. It doesn’t say abuser, husband, sis or maw. When the obituary runs is, IMO, an excellent time to forgive and clear the books, but only if you want to.

  44. Jadey
    Jadey January 10, 2013 at 1:35 am |

    Re: comment thread above

    I’m about to spend the next couple of days travelling and will not likely be able to respond to the direct comments at length until the weekend, I’m sorry.

    I’m also really struggling with the new twist of “yay execution!” on that thread which is immensely emotionally triggering for me. We’ll see if I can actually deal with that, but I may need to try making my responses into a post on my own blog where I have more content control because Feministe is an incredibly overwhelming place to deal with stuff hitting me this hard. (Which is not to make this *ALL ABOUT ME* because it definitely isn’t, but I have to be honest about my actual ability to engage in this conversation in this space, which isn’t what it used to be, it seems.)

    The only fast response I can make regarding the inappropriateness of life-long incarceration as a general strategy for dealing with violent offenders is that the incredible cost of such an approach means far less money going into education, medical care, etc. So that right there is one very good argument (among many others which take longer to elaborate) for finding a better way.

    1. Radiant Sophia
      Radiant Sophia January 10, 2013 at 2:01 am |

      Jadey,
      You are obviously referring to me. I’m sorry my comments upset you, and I’ll stop posting on this, but please don’t take my comments to mean “this space, which isn’t what it used to be, it seems”. I’m only representing my views, and I absolutely didn’t mean to upset you.

      1. Jadey
        Jadey January 10, 2013 at 8:28 am |

        Sophia, you aren’t under any obligation to mind my views and feelings on this. I’m upset by it, but that’s life. I’m not a victim here. I appreciate that you want to be mindful, but I don’t want to coerce anyone into just by being upset myself. I can handle it.

        The “this space” comment was actually meant to be “my ability [in this space]” not being what it used to be, and so not a comment on anyone else but me. One of the other reasons I’m not rushing to continue the conversation at this moment when I don’t have much time to reflect is that I think I obviously need to step back on it because I’m having such strong emotional reactions, that’s all, and this isn’t my therapy space.

        1. Dan_Brodribb
          Dan_Brodribb January 10, 2013 at 11:43 am |

          Just wanted to concur with A4.

          From your comments on this thread, I feel similarly to you, and i found the things you mentioned that I HADN’T thought about wise and thought provoking.

        2. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve January 11, 2013 at 11:36 pm |

          Sophia, you aren’t under any obligation to mind my views and feelings on this. I’m upset by it, but that’s life. I’m not a victim here. I appreciate that you want to be mindful, but I don’t want to coerce anyone into just by being upset myself. I can handle it.

          The “this space” comment was actually meant to be “my ability [in this space]” not being what it used to be, and so not a comment on anyone else but me. One of the other reasons I’m not rushing to continue the conversation at this moment when I don’t have much time to reflect is that I think I obviously need to step back on it because I’m having such strong emotional reactions, that’s all, and this isn’t my therapy space.

          Please post a link if you choose to discuss this on your blog…

    2. A4
      A4 January 10, 2013 at 8:44 am |

      Much respect to you Jadey.

  45. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub January 10, 2013 at 12:00 pm |

    I do not trust anyone to decide that a man who abuses, rapes, or kills women is rehabilitated enough to rejoin society. Given that it’s a trek up a greased hill in Crisco shoes to get people to take these crimes seriously and to count women as human beings, I am NOT comfortable with calls to forgive and calls that we should rehabilitate.

    The fact of the matter is, abusers mask their abuse behind anger management. They call it anger and claim they lost control when they trash their partner’s stuff, hit their partner, or manipulate their partner. They do not do this shit to other people. They do not trash their own stuff. They do not trash the things of people who have some power over them or who are at the very least not “lesser” than them in their minds and society’s view–like say, their boss or their parents or their bros. No. They do this to their partners.

    So maybe I’m a mean old punitive bitch, but I don’t care. I’ve seen too many women be berated and shamed into forgiving men who have raped them, abused them, and hurt them. I’ve seen too many white men be given the benefit of the doubt.

    Compassion for women? Even from people who are supposedly on my side? Very rare. Oh, they get angry when it’s “other ” dudes who do it (see Steubenville, OH) but the minute it’s one of their bros they freak right out (see Assange or a certain male professor of feminism who will not be named). So you’ll just have to, um, forgive me if I have doubts about a so-called restorative justice system that is instituted by a community that does not value women. Or if I have doubts about the compassion and mercy of people who seem to think that women are expendable or that our abuse and assaults and rapes aren’t all that important while they sweat the feelings of the men who abuse, assault, and rape.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L January 10, 2013 at 7:06 pm |

      They call it anger and claim they lost control when they trash their partner’s stuff, hit their partner, or manipulate their partner. They do not do this shit to other people. They do not trash their own stuff. They do not trash the things of people who have some power over them or who are at the very least not “lesser” than them in their minds and society’s view–like say, their boss or their parents or their bros. No. They do this to their partners.

      Thank you.

    2. EG
      EG January 10, 2013 at 7:35 pm |

      Eloquent. Thank you.

  46. Sillyme
    Sillyme January 10, 2013 at 6:43 pm |

    It isnt a gender issue. Mary Winkler shotgunned her husband while he slept. Her defense, he wanted to make her wear some shoes. The jury was persuaded and so she did not make any time except for what she served until the verdict.

    But god help you if you cheat on your taxes.

  47. Sillyme
    Sillyme January 10, 2013 at 6:50 pm |

    Also why isnt there a post about this

    House GOP lets the Violence Against Women Act expire for first time since 1994

    1. tigtog
      tigtog January 10, 2013 at 7:06 pm | *

      There’ll be another Weekend Open Thread going up tomorrow, Sillyme. You are most welcome to discuss any issues Feministe has not specifically posted about on there (you could even use last weekend’s Open Thread right now if you just can’t wait).

      1. Donna L
        Donna L January 10, 2013 at 7:16 pm |

        Are weekend open threads going to be a regular thing now? If so, that’s great. I like the idea.

  48. Friday links, 1/11/13 « Tutus And Tiny Hats

    [...] part-time world. -The literary world’s latest teapot-sized tempest: or, when writers attack! -Restorative justice and domestic violence. -When is a woman not a “real” woman? -On Asian “accents.“ -Feminist abuse [...]

  49. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig January 12, 2013 at 10:05 pm |

    Comrade Kevin: The ones I respect the most are the ones who find a way to be loving, regardless of the circumstances that face them daily.

    Well, as a man, you can be loving and no one’s going to use that against you. However, a woman who is loving *is* going to get that used against her. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, soft feelings like love and forgiveness are what get women killed.
    I don’t like the idea of restorative justice in murder and d.v. because the perp will only earn that society validates his actions. If I had a daughter, I’d raise her to view emotions like dessert or good clothes- okay for special occasions, but not something that should be indulged in every day.

    1. EG
      EG January 12, 2013 at 11:31 pm |

      Love is hardly a soft feeling.

    2. Li
      Li January 12, 2013 at 11:38 pm |

      It begins.

  50. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig January 13, 2013 at 12:58 am |

    EG: I class love as a soft feeling. Your milage may vary.

  51. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig January 13, 2013 at 1:03 am |

    Correction: *the perp will only learn* not earn.

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