A challenge

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I’m listening this morning to the slew of financial statistics–housing starts, unemployment rate, bank closings, those without health care, bankruptcies, houses in foreclosure….

It seems to me that restorative justice needs to come up with an index of its own:  one that marks the measure of social justice.  Are we moving closer or further away from our goal of less reliance on prisons, improving social relationships in our communities, looking at how well or how poorly alternatives to incarceration are funded?  What is the ratio between expenditures on prisons vs. what we spend on schools?  What is the ratio of crime to poverty?  Number of dispute resolution programs to police officers?

If we were able to construct such an index, what measures would we want to include?  What ratios would make sense?  Could we measure it over time?  Might we use it to show our policy makers where we might redirect our capital–from economic to social?  There is the well-known Misery Index that has been around for a long while.  Perhaps it’s time to develop a Justice Index.  Then again, the two might be related.

What variables should we include?  Some initial thoughts:  ratio of prison spending to education… percentage of gated communities compared to low-income housing … incarceration rates v. those without healthcare … social distance … social capital …  As a sociologist, this makes me think.  Things are not static. This gives me hope.  We need something by which to measure our progress. Whereas people may not understand abstractions or theories, they do understand numbers.  With 14,000 people a day losing health care coverage, just under 500 folks are now on their own in the time it took to write these words.  But then again, who’s keeping score…?

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