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Sawbonna: Justice as Lived Experience( file size: 364k )

Van Sluytman, Margot, Elizabeth

Medium Type:

Sawbonna, Victim, Justice, Social Justice, Restorative Justice, Murder

Dr. Dale Dewhurst and Dr. Carolyn Redl.

The purpose of this paper is to identify the problems with the justice system and restorative justice and to show how altered definitions of “justice” can fix these problems. This autoethnographic research shows that the choice to live new definitions of justice means that individuals who were previously ignored or marginalized by the existing system can share their stories and approach restorative justice in ways that were not previously possible. My own lived experience with murder to meaning, which includes the gift of meeting the man, Glen Flett, who killed my Father, Theodore Van Sluytman, thirty years after that savage day, is expressed by the word, Sawbonna. Sawbonna means that we see the essential goodness and fragility in each other. My lived experience and Sawbonna have taught me that systematic change is required in the justice system. Stories that are told against the same “justice” environments and institutions, traditional and non-traditional, will have the same results, including continued concentration on punishing perpetrators, while offering little in the way of rehabilitation and healing, and will continue to exclude hearing what victims of crime need and can offer in their own processes of re-storying their lives.