NY Times: Can Forgiveness Play a Role in Criminal Justice?
What do you do when someone you love kills someone else that you love? What recourse do you seek? What do you do when the victim is your child, and the killer their lover… someone incredibly close to your family. An article by Paul Tullis in the NY Times Magazine from this week explores these questions through the experience of a family whose 19-year-old daughter Ann Grosmaire was shot and killed by her boyfriend of three years Conor McBride, a young man with no prior record who had even lived with the Grosmaire family for several months. Ultimately, the Grosmaires and the McBrides decided together that locking up Conor for the rest of his life was not what they wanted for either of their families. What they wanted was restorative justice, a lighter sentence for Conor, with more emphasis on forgiveness and less on punishment. What follows is a poignant story of two families working closely together to forgive, and not condemn, this young man.
Kate Grosmaire, Ann’s mother, stated:
“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. I think that when people can’t forgive, they’re stuck. All they can feel is the emotion surrounding that moment.”
The article, which can be read here, is a long read but a very worthwhile one, and something you might want to share with family or friends who are resistant or uncertain about the concept of restorative justice. Conor was ultimately sentenced to 20 years in prison and 10 years parole. This sentence was not well received by all members of the Florida community where the families lived, and perhaps wouldn’t be appropriate for all incidents, but it is a good case-study for restorative justice. It’s not just for the perpetrator, it’s for the family, and mostly the family of the victim. For many families of victims, it offers the only chance at living some semblance of a normal life, the only chance to remember their lost loved one without feeling anger. Kate Grosmaire, in the article states, “I can be sad, but I don’t have to stay stuck in that moment where this awful thing happened. Because if I do, I may never come out of it. Forgiveness for me was self-preservation.”