Sue was a newly divorced mom making a fresh start for herself and her two children. One day, Sue was inside while her children played outside of the house, a man came to the door looking for yard work. Sue kindly showed him the yard and let him into the house to use the phone. She had no idea the man, Dale, was an alleged hit man hired to kill her. Dale shot Sue in the stomach, but, fortunately, the gun jammed and he wasn't able to fire any more bullets. Sue ran to the neighbor's house while Dale escaped. Three months after the shooting, Dale was arrested and convicted for attempted murder, and served 12 years in prison.
Even with Dale behind bars, Sue didn't feel safe. "I had nightmares for several years of people chasing me with guns," she says. "I was so scared all the time, I carried a loaded gun in my purse for about two years."
After serving 12 years in prison, Dale contacted Sue to apologize for shooting her.
"I was back in jail again, looking at another term in prison," Dale says. "I had basically hit bottom and didn't like myself. Part of the 12-step drug program I was going through is to make amends where possible. So that's why I called Sue the first time, to tell her I was sorry for what I had done."
Dale and Sue had four restorative justice meetings in the summer of 2002, four years after Dale initially called to apologize for the shooting. Says Sue, "I knew it was divinely guided, and I felt it was really important to go and participate for the healing that was necessary for the whole family and Dale's family, as well."
Sue and Dale now speak at prisons to help other inmates realize the full impact their crimes have on families.
Sunny Schwartz says that restorative justice is a "call to action" to do something different in the justice system that could effectively help heal not only the victim, but the ex-criminal, as well.
"We've been locking people up for hundreds of years," she says. "Crime is continuing, and we spend billions of dollars. Virtually everyone is getting out into your community and my community. We're about beginning to start giving the tools to the offenders, holding that mirror up and saying, 'Look at what you've done.' [We're trying to] provide jobs, education and recovery programs, because 90 percent of the people incarcerated are all getting released."
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