Our Opinion: Dual impact of restorative justice

Restorative justice initiatives are based on the concept that selfless activity diminishes selfish attitudes.

As part of the restorative justice program within the Missouri Department of Corrections, prison inmates are making items to help restore Joplin.

The rebuilding effort continues in the city devastated by a May 22 tornado that killed 160 people, injured hundreds of others and destroyed or damaged about 8,000 homes and businesses.

Both tornado victims and relief workers are benefiting from “cool ties” and “stress pillows” made by prison inmates. The ties help keep outdoor workers cool and the pillows help alleviate aches and pains, as well as reduce stress.

Prisoners also have delivered coloring books and stuffed animals, purses and bags, quilts and blankets, and other items.

The initiative is designed to help the prisoners, as well. “All this is geared toward a higher purpose,” explained Corrections Director George Lombardi. “Once people are engaged in this way, it builds up compassion where either none existed or it was buried. That makes for a safer environment (in prison) and enhances the opportunity for inmates to change.”

In addition to making and delivering items, prisoners involved in the restorative justice program also attend classes to understand how their crimes affected their victims, their families and their communities.

Restorative justice may be the moniker for the agency’s program, but the concept is not unique nor limited to the Department of Corrections.

Mankind has known for ages that when we help others, we also feel better about ourselves.

Such is the dual restorative power of acting with compassion.

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