“It can work for Israel and Palestine, North and South Korea,” Khamisa continued. “It can work in the United States of America. So I believe, my sisters and brothers, that peace is possible. How do I know that? Because I am at peace.”In January 1995, Khamisa’s 20-year-old son Tariq was murdered while delivering pizza by a 14-year-old gang member named Tony Hicks in Southern California. The coroner explained to the distraught dad that the single .9 mm bullet followed a rare “perfect path,” destroying all of his vital organs, resulting in the young adult literally drowning in his own blood.“I didn’t want to go through life on crutches saying, ‘Feel sorry for me because I lost my only son,’” he pointed out. “There’s no quality in being a victim. And unless you forgive, you remain a victim. There may be no other way to move forward. “So I took a little different response to this tragedy than maybe a lot of other people would have. What I saw here was there were victims at both ends of the gun. Who is the enemy here? Is it the 14-year-old who murdered my son, or is it the societal forces that force a young 11-year-old African American child to join a gang — and at the age of 14 he took the life of my son to prove himself to the gang? I figured that was the enemy.”Forgiving the young killer, Khamisa founded the Tariq Khamisa Foundation to break the cycle of youth violence by “saving lives, teaching peace and planting seeds of hope in violent offenders young lives.” A month later, he met and joined together with Hicks’ grandfather guardian. And since November 1995, the two have brought their story and message of nonviolence personally to a half-million elementary and middle school children live and more than 20 million through video programs.He also founded the CANEI restorative program, a six-month inspirational program for troubled youth with three major components: spirituality, literacy and restorative justice.“What restorative justice says is crime happens in the context of community,” explained the author of four books on forgiveness, peace and recovery. “So in a crime there are essentially three parties: the victims, offenders and the community. The state can facilitate, but they cannot be directly involved. And justice is not served until three things happen. Number one, the victim has to be made whole. Number two, the offender must be returned to society as a functional and contributing member. Number three, the community must be healed. “So restorative justice makes sense,” he maintained, “and is a more powerful way to go.”Obligation to care?The day-long conference was sponsored by Loyola Law School’s Center for Restorative Justice. It featured panels on government and community perspectives about restorative justice and breakout groups on “Opportunities for Victims’ Voices,” “Reintegration, not Release,” “Community Participation” and “Education is Power.” Scott Budnick, president of Greenhat Films and instructor of InsideOut Writers, received the Francisco “Franky” Carrillo Award for fostering juvenile justice.In his address “From Liability to Responsibility,” Samuel Pillsbury, professor of law at Loyola Law School, addressed the question of responsibility in juvenile justice. “We care about the punishment of offenders, but must we also care about young offenders as people?” he asked. “Do we have any obligation to them beyond respecting basically their rights? Do we have any obligation to their families or communities? Do we have any obligations to victims beyond punishment?“I think we do,” asserted the Episcopal deacon, who serves as a volunteer chaplain at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility near downtown Los Angeles. “But many Californians disagree. They say, ‘Do the crime and do the time.’ End of story.”Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said the whole idea of juveniles and crime has been “very perplexing” for not only law enforcement, but also for educators as well as families suffering because of the “dysfunctionality” of their children. He stressed that the Sheriffs’ Department had changed its strategy from punishment to youth programs for at-risk youth referred by the local juvenile court. “So the culture of policing is shifting into education as well as enforcement,” he said.Then Sheriff Baca added, “Now the concept of restorative justice can go two ways: one is after the problem has occurred or, in my belief, that all young people should be exposed to recovery programs. After they’ve messed up their lives is only one half of the solution. Every school should teach recovery methodology to every child in America today.”The superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District addressed the issue of what happens to students after they have been incarcerated in probation camps. John Deasy said most don’t even know their legal rights about returning to school.“Part of the reason they’re in the camps is because we have failed them in the public school system,” he acknowledged. “And kids coming from camp should be allowed and have no problems reenrolling in high school after being in a camp. Reenrollment is part of restorative justice.”‘Don’t do enough’Presiding Judge Michael Nash, Juvenile Court of the Los Angeles Superior Court, didn’t mince words at the conference. “In terms of restorative justice, we clearly don’t do enough,” he declared. He pointed out how the juvenile court was created in Chicago in 1899 because of the bedrock belief that children are not adults. “When we think about restorative justice, the piece is this idea that the community and individuals whom we call victims need to be a part of that process of making locked up kids better,” he said. “And, certainly, to a major extent, that piece is missing. And it’s missing to the extent that we need to let the youth, as part of their development, know that when they violate the law it’s not an amorphous concept. It does impact others. It impacts individuals. It impacts the community as a whole. And to do that we need to have the community and the victims themselves as part of the process.”One of the last speakers was Javier Stauring, co-director of the Los Angeles Archdiocese’s Office of Restorative Justice. He said the United States is the only developed country in the world that sentences young people to life in prison without any possibility of parole. But he also noted that a bill before the current California legislature, SB9, would change that stringent law. “This is really an opportunity for us as a community to say that some kids commit horrific crimes, some kids commit acts that are unforgiveable,” he noted. “But it’s the act that is unforgivable. The act is horrific, but the child is not.“When we talk about restorative justice and when we talk about believing in our children, I don’t think we can say, ‘OK, there are children up to a certain point,’ and then draw the line. Restorative justice is a set of principles, the way we approach justice, the way we define justice. And it’s not a few programs here and there. It’s valuing our youth in a way that keeps to that value.” {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0617/youthcrime/{/gallery}