I was surprised to receive an email from District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altweis about “restorative justice.” And I am disappointed to learn from it that, as with the Santa Fe New Mexican stories, she seems to be unwilling to say what “restorative justice” means. I am waiting to hear exactly what the “criminals” (as she has described them) who wrecked the obelisk will be required to do.
So far, the “rigorous program” seems to consist of writing a letter apologizing for their crimes and 40 hours of “community service” (not defined). Will that include picking up trash along roadways? Is that really all there is to “restorative justice”? A hefty fine to “restore” the public property seems to me to be a logical part of “restorative justice.” And I can’t help but wonder about the ethnicity of the criminals. Judging only by their names, I am guessing most of them are Anglos. If they were Black, Hispanic or American Indian, would their “restorative justice” look like what the DA is promoting?
A diversion from incarceration is a worthwhile goal, but the DA seems unwilling to spell out clearly the alternative she is promoting. What am I missing?
I first learned about restorative justice in 1997, when I read about Archbishop Desmond Tutu, head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. After more than 30 years of apartheid plagued with violence and human rights abuses against Black citizens, the commission chose to bring abusers and the abused together to begin the healing process.
Restorative justice is a viable alternative to the criminalization of minority youth, which is a distressful outcome of systemic racism in this country. Returning to the events of Indigenous Peoples Day, when group members decided to take action in a community that already had begun a process of reconciliation, they not only toppled an obelisk, but they disrupted the healing of deep historical wounds.
The defendants have to take responsibility for the harm they have caused, face the people they have offended and make reparations.
Maria Cristina Lopez
All can participate
Michael Vigil and Susana Villalobos both wrote of true restorative justice today (“Restorative justice can heal community, judge believes” and “Learning more,” Letters to the Editor, June 2). The obelisk was finally dismantled almost inadvertently (Mayor Alan Webber was clueless) — I was there shortly before the actual toppling — but good intentions do not disappear.
Chief Justice Robert Yazzie of the Navajo Nation articulated his people’s experience of how a community seeks justice. Everyone must be included. That means even the people who seem trapped by racism, colonialism, authoritarianism must be included in the circle. And that inclusion does not mean they get to condemn. They must join the circle first, in peace, to be allowed a voice.
Emily Albrink Hartigan
A beautifying tradition
I just want to give a hearty shoutout to Keep Santa Fe Beautiful. Just recently, the group had its annual spring cleanup throughout Santa Fe. Participants are such a great part of a tradition in Santa Fe. The organization has been here for over 31/2 decades and has done a ton of great things for our community. Not only does Santa Fe Beautiful do a spring cleanup, but there is another one in the fall, where you can volunteer to clean up part of the city and participate in cleaning your neighborhood. These get-togethers are so uplifting, as you can see neighbors from all parts of the city and renew friendships. The Santa Fe Beautiful Board is there, and you can see city councilors and the mayor.
Both cleanups usually start early with coffee and doughnuts, with volunteers picking up gloves, garbage bags, T-shirts and hats to promote Keep Santa Fe Beautiful. The city provides limited garbage truck pickups in designated areas, and various restaurants provide lunch at the end of the event. Because of the pandemic, things were done differently this year. Still, I want to thank the board, volunteers, the parks and sanitation departments, and restaurants for making this a success each year. We hope this program continues to be generously funded to carry on the tradition and professionalism of Keep Santa Fe Beautiful.
Cecilia and Rod Hasson