I carry a coin with the Rotary Four-Way Test printed on it that was a gift from the Fort Collins club with me every day in my purse. I like having it with me. The question are such a clear way to check my words and actions when I feel lost, uncertain, and especially when I feel hurt or angry.
- Is it the truth?
- Is it Fair to all concerned?
- Will it build Goodwill and Better Friendships?
- Will it be Beneficial to all concerned?
When people experience hurt or anger, there in a natural tendency to want to hit back. I think this is why our societal justice responses have so often tended towards retributive harming, also known as “punishment.” Hitting back can feel like the only possible response in a moment of fear and furry. But as Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
The retributive justice response also doesn’t align with the Four-Way Test. The threat of severe punishment often deters those who have committed a wrongdoing from taking responsibility, thus preventing truth-telling. The severity of the punishment often depends on factors such as race, gender, religion, socio-economic class, and citizenship status, making conventional justice responses consistently unfair. The adversarial structure of our justice system often drives a further wedge between victim, offender, their families and the wider community, further fragmenting relationships and preventing goodwill. Finally, often all involved parties end up experiencing additional harm as a result of participating in the justice process.
In contrast, restorative justice offers a justice response that aligns with the requirement and principles of the Four-Way Test. Restorative justice promotes responsibility-taking, fair and people-centred procedures, the reparation of relationships, and a way of responding to harm without causing further harm.
Lindsey Pointer is a restorative practices facilitator, trainer and researcher and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Restorative Justice at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand with support from a Rotary Global Grant Scholarship and the Fulbright Program from the U.S. State Department.