A powerful argument for adopting a model of restorative justice in wrongful conviction cases as part of legislative efforts toward criminal justice reform and community healing. At the age of 17, Thomas Haynesworth was arrested on multiple rape charges in Virginia. Despite his pleas of innocence, five rape victims, including 20-year-old Janet Burke, identified him as the offender. Only after more than two decades of legal wrangling was he exonerated by DNA evidence. Conventional wisdom points to an exoneration as a happy ending to tragic tales of injustice like Haynesworth's. However, even when the physical shackles are left behind, invisible ones can be profoundly more difficult to unlock. In Rectify, former innocence project director and journalist Lara Bazelon takes stock of the massive damage inflicted by wrongful convictions. Despite a record 375 exonerations in the last three years, Bazelon argues that the criminal justice system has not done enough to rectify the devastation left in their wake - the suffering experienced by not only the exoneree, but their families, the crime victims who mistakenly identified them as perpetrators, the jurors who convicted them, and the prosecutors who realized too late that they helped convict an innocent person. In the midst of her frustration over the blatant limitations of courts and advocates, Bazelon's hope is renewed by the fledgling but growing movement to apply the centuries-old practice of restorative justice to wrongful conviction cases. Using the stories of Thomas Haynesworth, Janet Burke, and other crime victims and exonerees, she demonstrates how the transformative experience of connecting isolated individuals around mutual trauma and a shared purpose of repairing harm unites unlikely allies in the common cause of just reparations. With poignant writing and vigorous research, Bazelon takes to task the far-reaching failures of our criminal justice system and offers a window into a future where the power it yields can be used in pursuit of healing and unity rather than punishment and blame.
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