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The Pay Back Of Restoration: Justice In Ben Mikaelsen’s Touching Spirit Bear

1826 words - 7 pages

With the authority to discipline, our society has the ability to influence the future. Although, punishment is used to human savagery , it can also be used to exert power. The act of consigning punishment is extensively documented in literature. Such is the topic in Ben Mikaelsen’s novel, Touching Spirit Bear. Cole Matthews proves that the power to punish is often misused, resulting in detrimental side effects for society. Thankfully, Cole’s most recent crime is judged using the Native American tradition known as Circle Justice. Due to the process’ restorative approach, Cole is allocated a punishment, which allows him to peruse a path towards redemption. As demonstrated by Cole’s transformation in Ben Mikaelsen’s Touching Spirit Bear, justice provides redemption as illustrated through setting, symbolism, and characterization, which proves society should refrain from allocating justice solely based on punishment.
Firstly, In Ben Mikaelsen’s Touching Spirit Bear, justice provides redemption as illustrated through setting, which proves society should refrain from allocating justice solely based on punishment. Justice awards a penance to an offender, which in a way equalizes the errors \y made by the guilty party. The process of Circle Justice, awards Cole with a banishment sentence as a means of remedying the problems his actions have generated.He is given a year long banishement senthence as a punishment for severely injuring a fellow classmate named Peter Driscal. Had he served his punishment elsewhere, his current state would be drastically altered. In the traditional court system, it is highly probable that Cole would have been awarded a lengthy prison sentence. Unfortunately, prison further decreases a detainee’s ability to eventually become productive member of society. In his statement, Garvey is particularly blunt about his negative stance towards prisons, emphasizing the fact that “People go to prison for years but still reemerge unchanged” (Mikaelsen 138). Garvey’s comment demonstrates his belief that prisons are inadequate due to the fact that they fail to accomplish the justice system’s primary focus; to decrease criminal activity. Instead of decreasing the amount of crime, prison is often contributes to certain infractions. This is a reality due to the fact that delinquents encounter difficulty registering their flaws as they are present in an environment where crime is both accepted and encouraged. Thus, upon their release, past offenders face difficulty withstanding the temptation of committing additional crimes. Further insight into Garvey’s stance on this issue is provided when he shares his own personal experience in the prison system. He sums up the hardship he continues to endure when he states “Take my word for it, jail scars the soul…I was never able to help those I hurt” (107). To this effect, Garvey’s concerns are due to the fact that while in prison inmates are not able to absolve their crimes as they do not develop the...

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