Comparing Restorative Justice
and Court Systems
I get older, I think that my views on the judicial system are changing. For
many years, I have been wondering if our system of vindictive, media-driven
justice– interminable process, highly paid lawyers, prosecutors and judges,
industrial jails and endless maze of laws designed primarily to punish– is
getting us anywhere. I think perhaps not.
prison population in the U.S. is insanely large and justice is simply not
available to anyone without the means to buy it. This is just as true in Canada
as the U.S., maybe even more so because most law firms in Canada are reluctant
to do either pro-bono work or take contingency-fee cases. Justice, such as it
is, is doled out by politically-ambitious, vote-seeking prosecuting attorneys.
If you ever run into one of these highly trained people, watch out. They can
think around corners and make even the most innocent amongst us beg for
conviction simply to stop a relentless cross examination. I know. I spent three
and a half days being cross examined by a skilled attorney working for the
Ontario government who wanted to put a halt to one of our projects (the
Palladium, home to the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, now called Canadian Tire Centre).
Fortunately, he lost/we won. I still have nightmares about it.
recently, in my writing about the Hopi of Third Mesa, I have come to believe
that maybe healing circles work better for victims, our communities and even
for perpetrators in all but the most extreme cases. And even in cases where
incarceration is the only alternative, I would build Prisoner Town for most of
those (excluding only the most violent offenders) where they could learn to
live in a mixed community of prisoners, go to work each day and live
independently within the borders of their town. Hopelessly idealistic? Maybe.
I wrote a scene in Chapter 1 of
Book 3 of my Quantum Entity Trilogy which involved a Healing Circle. In
this scene you will meet Nina, age 17, a motocross racer who won a race against
other riders, all of whom are male. One (Fritz Duesberg, also 17) hates to lose
especially to a woman and later that day assaults Nina and those around her
(Padre Jules Brydges and then Magellan “Ian” Bell, age 25). Leader of the young
Hopi (Bartholomew, age 17) intervenes first to stop the assault and later on to
scene takes place in Port Isabel, Texas in the summer of 2089. Reading it, you
will see how a healing circle might work; then again, maybe not.
‘Aliens’ referred to below is the name given to their group of moto riders who
have that nickname because they are so fast. A Quantum Bubble is an information
shield that protects their community from attack by Sinofighters and others who
are laying siege to towns and cites across America. The people inside are
isolated and on their own, in every way.
is also a brief mention of Pi, Nina’s Quantum Entity counterpart. Pi’s real
name is Piro pronounced Pyro but no one calls her that. She’s the only known
Quantum Entity who has a transcendental number in their name. Pi is a lot
easier to say than for example 3.14159265359ro.
Nina, motocross racing, guitar-playing, rave
attending, church-going, coffee house owning, half Hopi princess, mediatronic
programming, quantum data strategist, rock n’ roll girl from Cal living in
Texas in 2089 with fluent French and some Swedish. Image used under license
from Lena Dunaeva. All rights reserved.
(Suitable for readers 18 and
EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 1, QUANTUM
ENTITY | THE SUCCESSORS
in the Alien’s clubhouse and the comfy, well-worn furniture has been rearranged
for this event. There are 14 Aliens in the house plus the Padre and Fritz.
Fritz’ mom and dad are also there.
They sit in concentric circles with Nina, Fritz, Fritz’ parents, the Padre and
Bart in the center. Their club chairs are intentionally set close together.
There is less personal space here than what white people are normally
comfortable with—the idea is to bring people together almost forcing them to
understand each other better. They accentuate this using a clever
ceiling-mounted lighting package that focuses on every face in each circle; it
reveals every detail of every face. No one can easily avoid eye contact or hide
their inner feelings in shadow. Bart asked Pi for her help earlier in the day
to set this up.
Fritz is still feeling the effects of his binge drinking and drug use as well
as the beating Bart laid on him after Nina left the night of the attack.
They’ve been through what happened twice. Mrs. Duesberg is having a hard time
absorbing what her son is alleged to have done.
“Son, you didn’t really hit the Padre did you?”
Fritz just looks at the floor.
One of the Aliens brings over the crank wrench for Mrs. Duesberg to hold. It’s
covered in sticky blood and hair from Jules’ head. She is shocked at what she
is seeing, at how heavy and dangerous it is; she practically drops it.
“He shouldn’t have scared you, Mom, with all his bullshit talk of an alien
coming to take us to the Mountain. What Mountain? What alien? It’s just
God-talk, he’s a God-guy. It’s just total bullshit.” He looks plaintively
around the room but sees no support other than from his mom. His dad is a
Baptist believer and would like to slap his son’s ignorant face—he taught him
to have an open mind, didn’t he? Guess not.
“Son, did you do those things to Nina and her boyfriend, Mr. Bell?”
Bart is startled when she calls Magellan Nina’s boyfriend. He looks over at
Nina who can’t look at him. What’s she got to be guilty about? No one owns her.
So she looks up and back at Bart and shrugs.
“She was asking for it, Mom. She’s the one who came onto me.”
They think they’ve heard every detail of what happened from Nina. Magellan
wasn’t invited to this Healing Circle.
“Nina, is that true?” Mrs. Duesberg asks.
“I think Fritz was upset about what happened at the moto earlier in the day and
he was drinking too much.” She doesn’t mention the drugs she suspects he was
also consuming. “I am fine Mrs. Duesberg. No harm was done to me. Maybe even I
incited Fritz a bit too at the service. You know when I was singing? I kind of
gave him a hard time with my eyes about the race. So maybe it was my fault
Bart and the rest of the guys shift restlessly in their seats again while
listening to Nina partially exculpate Fritz. Nina doesn’t tell them that Fritz
could not have raped her or, Heaven forbid, that she might actually have wanted
to have sex with him, he couldn’t perform. But Fritz hasn’t forgotten.
“See, what’d I tell you, it was her fault for egging me on; I never touched
her.” Now that is patently untrue.
“Did you ‘egg’ him on, Miss?” Mr. Duesberg asks doubtfully.
“No, not that way.” Now Nina is on trial. Bart’s blood pressure has jumped
“We are going to take a break for 40 minutes,” he says and walks out of their
what did you see when you came back to La Villa?” Bart asks. He’s gone to get
Magellan on his chopper. Magellan was over at Kaffe House listening to an
amateur standup comedian who is running on much too long. Without their
impresario (Nina), neither Pi nor Finnegan are on top of the Haus Show program
which will run overtime tonight. They should be giving some of these acts the
hook. But this is the first time Ian’s been to the Show and he’s enjoying
himself. He’s been isolated for all the years he spent in Northern Ontario with
his brother and his dad and is even more isolated now that he is living alone
in Port Isabel.
“Um, I saw Mr. Duesberg, Fritz, ah, he had her, Nina, against the Padre’s truck.
He had her dress hiked up around her waist and, he um, I think was trying to
have, like, sex.with.her. Sort of.”
“Well I don’t think it was going too well. Nina was struggling/fighting him
really I think. She was asking him to get off, saying they had to help the
Padre or he might die.”
“And what did Fritz do?” Bart asks.
“He, um, kept, well trying I think.”
“Then what happened?”
“I don’t really remember. I told him to stop. Maybe I said something like,
‘Hey, what’s going on.’ I don’t recall exactly.”
“Well, he came at me with some type of wrench—”
“This one here?”
“Yeah I think so. He hit me on my back with it and I couldn’t catch my breath.
Then he dragged me into La Villa and locked me in.”
“What did you do next?”
Now Magellan’s getting really uncomfortable. “I got to one of those tiny
windows. I saw Fritz grab Nina by the hair and throw her down on the floor, I
mean the ground. And then he pulled her dress over the top of her head and then
well I didn’t see anything else.”
“Why not?” Bart asks.
“I was trying to get out. Like hammering at the front doors.”
“Is that how you separated your shoulder.”
“Yeah, both of them.”
“Fritz, Mrs. Duesberg, Mr.
Duesberg, do you know what a Hopi Healing Circle is for?” Bart asks.
“It’s to judge a perpetrator,” Mr. Duesberg answers for the three of them.
“Not just that. It’s to help his victims heal and also to help the accused heal
and then the tribe heal. It’s not to punish unless there is no other
alternative. It is to rehabilitate him, not just to bring him to account. The
Great Spirit has been disturbed, a wrong has been committed. We Hopi do not
believe in prison. A person can create his own prison, one that is far more of
a jail than any jailhouse ever built.
“We believe that a wrongdoing is a crime against the person and our community
rather than the state. Healing circles are concerned with restorative justice;
we care little about abstract legal principles. It is far better for our people
than white man’s justice which isn’t justice at all, it’s an industry.
“But the victim and the person who has wronged her or him must meet and there
must be a genuine exchange and understanding. Fritz, do you think we have
achieved that here?” Bart has read up extensively on this to prepare for
tonight and also consulted with several elders who survived the massacre at
Fritz just shrugs. “Ask her.”
“I’m OK with it, Bart.”
They both nod ‘yes’ taking their cue from Nina who is looking at both of them
with a plea in her violet eyes. She feels responsible for what happened. What
the Padre whispered in her ear earlier—that she would need him at the healing
circle tonight to back her up—has come true.
But Bart surprises them. He turns to Mr. Duesberg. “Mr. Duesberg, are you satisfied?”
“No, Hoss, I am not. Fritzey, I want you to stand up like a
man and tell this here girl you’re sorry and the Padre and Mr. Bell too. And
then I wanna hear loud and clear outta your pie hole, and not like some damn
Yankee lawyer, that you ain’t never gonna do something like this again.”
Fritz stands before the Aliens and his mom, dad and Ian and says, “It’s the
Kike Hopi whore’s fault all the way.”
The Aliens decide—Fritz Duesberg is
to be exiled, tonight. They will put him outside their Quantum Bubble, close
the airlock and he is never to return on pain of execution on sight. It’s a
different form of death sentence. Mr. and Mrs. Duesberg accompany their son to
the airlock along with eight Alien guards who will make sure the sentence is
carried out immediately.
Bart is sitting next to a stunned Nina. Their shoulders are touching and Nina
feels better just for his closeness. The Padre is on her other side and
Magellan sits facing the small group.
“Dey some you canna help, Nina. He be a rabid dog,” Jules is saying in his
“I neber expected to set him off like that.” Her lisp is more pronounced
because she is so upset.
“Nina, you won a race. That’s all you did. That guy is not right about anything,”
“I think we should cancel Stinky’s,” Nina replies. Stinky is a rave she and
Finnegan have been planning for months; they’ve sold over 3,000 tickets. It’s
going to be held in a humongous barn that used to be used to slaughter cattle
and pigs; it’s all going down a week from Saturday. “It’s not gonna be any fun
and the Padre here won’t be able to come and say his blessing. He’s gotta go
back to the clinic right now in the ban.” When Nina says ‘ban’ she is referring
to their panel van which doubles as their ambulance. Jules’ head has started
“To Hell wid dat, woman. I be der! Wid me cracked head and all.” Padre Brydges
is older than this crew and he knows that they and more particularly Nina will
bounce back fast, even more so if they have something to do, especially something
as fun as their rave promises to be.
“And you’re coming too, Magellan,” Bart says.
“You’re an honorary Alien now, amigo. All Aliens on deck,” Bart continues.
It’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to Ian. Pretty soon everyone, even
his brother, will start calling him Ian. Only Damien will persist in calling
him by his Christian name. What do you know? He has new friends.
Nina looks at Bart and smiles warmly in his direction.
Bruce M Firestone, B Eng (Civil), M Eng-Sci, Phd. Founder, Ottawa Senators;
Author, Quantum Entity Trilogy, Entrepreneurs Handbook II; Executive Director,
Exploriem.org; Broker, Century 21 Explorer Realty Inc; Entrepreneurship
Ambassador, Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa. 613.566.3436 X
250. bmfirestone @ dramatispersonae.org