Denise Breton, co-author of The Paradigm Conspiracy: Why Our Social Systems Violate Our Human Potential and How We Can Change Them, and Stephen Lehman, former publisher and editor of Elysian Fields Quarterly, are philosophers who state at the outset: "Justice isn't only about laws, courts, police, and prisons. It's about creating what's right, good, and principled in all our relationships. Justice is about all of us everyday, because it has to do with how we harmonize our ways of being together how we create peace and happiness among us."
The authors believe that the reigning model of justice a reward-punishment model isn't serving us well. All this emphasis upon tit for tat, deterrence, guilt, and misery actually creates paranoia, distrust, and cynicism about the system. Breton and Lehman explore an alternative to retributive justice restorative justice.
This model, based on inner directives rather than mere externals, is concerned with the healing and transformation of all offenders, victims, family, friends, and community. This spiritual approach of making things right can be traced back to Plato, Socrates, and The Republic. The authors point to pioneering work in restorative justice done by the Mennonites in the United States since the 1970s, by Cree and Ojibway elders in Canada, and by the Church Council on Justice and Connections in Ottawa, Ontario, that describes 100 different programs around the world.
Breton and Lehman brilliantly and convincingly re-imagine justice as a friend of our soul and as an enhancer of community well-being that brings in its surge healing, connectedness, and mutual blessings. Perhaps the most salutary thing about The Mystic Heart of Justice is that it may serve as a needed catalyst for more discussion and experimentation with restorative justice. Certainly all of us would feel more liberated, empowered, and whole should this soul-affirming paradigm take hold in our private and public lives.