A powerful argument for adopting a model of restorative justice as part of the Innocence Movement—so exonerees, crime victims, and their communities can come together to heal
In Rectify, a former Innocence Project director and journalist Lara Bazelon puts a face to the growing number of men and women exonerated from crimes that kept them behind bars for years—sometimes decades—and that devastate not only the exonerees but also 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.
Bazelon focuses on Thomas Haynesworth, a teenager arrested for multiple rapes in Virginia, and Janet Burke, a rape victim who mistakenly IDed him. It took over two decades before he was exonerated. Conventional wisdom points to an exoneration as a happy ending to tragic tales of injustice, such as Haynesworth’s. However, even when the physical shackles are left behind, invisible ones can be profoundly more difficult to unlock.
In the midst of Bazelon’s frustration over the blatant limitations of courts and advocates, her 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 unite unlikely allies. Movingly written and vigorously researched, Rectify 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.