By Susan Zaraysky
Alumna Terri Day’s graduate research led her into the field of restorative justice and, in turn, to the horror that was the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The bus ride was one Terri Rosenthal Day will never forget.
“There were no lights and no signs of civilization,” she says of the ride from Zagreb to Sarajevo. “We could only ask ourselves in hushed, somber tones: Where have all the people gone?’ ”
In August 1996, just nine months after the end of the brutal war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ms. Day (SAS ’76), an associate professor of law at Barry University in Orlando, Florida, ventured to Sarajevo to present a paper on the role of women in civil society. She was a presenter at the Noel Baker-Pauling-Peccei Conference on Democracy, Reconstruction, and Integrity.
Having studied international law and human rights, Ms. Day was well versed in the main issues of human rights violations, but she had never been to a country recently punctured by war, genocide, and torture.
Ms. Day rode the bus with other conference presenters to see firsthand what had become of the people and the once-lush landscape. “I remember seeing miles and miles of devastation,” Ms. Day recalls. “There was nothing left of the villages. Only the shells of homes remained: no roofs, no windows, and no doors. There were no people anywhere, no signs of life. The roads were unmarked. The bridges had been knocked out and temporary ones were rebuilt.”
By seeing the results of “ethnically cleansed” villages, and by speaking with people who, for four years, fought for survival while under siege in Sarajevo, Ms. Day’s journey manifested into an emotionally profound trip.
She returned to Sarajevo after receiving a Fulbright fellowship for the 2000-01 academic year.
“During that first visit to Sarajevo, I recognized the pain of human suffering along with the strength to survive, which reminded me so much of Holocaust survivors,” she says, referring to a National Council of Jewish Women project she co-chaired that involved videotaping the testimonies of Holocaust survivors.
“That experience deeply touched my life in terms of recognizing the evil that man does to man and the ability of man to survive,” she says. “When I first learned of the genocide, rape camps, and deportation of thousands of Bosnians, I was reminded of the stories [of the Holocaust] and the broken promises of ‘never again.’
“I am haunted by the voices of the people I met. I did not understand the language, but in their voices I heard the pain, the fear, the sadness, the betrayal, and the gratitude that we had finally come,” she recalls.
She was inspired to return in part by the Holocaust project and by the 1996 conference. She took an academic leave of absence to teach a course called Restorative Justice in the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Criminal Sciences of Criminology at the University of Sarajevo.
Restorative justice is a fairly new discipline. It focuses on healing the effects of crime, and working with victims and perpetrators of crime to reduce recidivism among criminals. In general, crimes committed involve victims, offenders, the community, and the government. The aim is to incorporate all four into the judicial system, she says.
Her interest in restorative justice, juvenile offenders, and victimology stemmed from her studies at CWRU, where she received her master’s, magna cum laude, in 1976 from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences. Ms. Day wrote a paper on the groundbreaking topic of victimology for Mandel School Professor Ruth Werner, now deceased.
She later earned a JD, magna cum laude, from the University of Florida (1991), and a master’s in law from Yale University (1995).
“There is no doubt that my training as a social worker and the focus of my first year on juvenile justice has shaped my interest in restorative justice and programs of juvenile offenders.”
As a graduate student, Ms. Day taught anger management and coping skills to a small group of inmates at the Cuyahoga Hills Boys School, a medium/maximum security institution for delinquent males near Cleveland. There she came to see the difficulty of preparing youths to be respectable, law-abiding citizens while they were incarcerated.
She continues working with juveniles today as a judge and jury advisor on a Teen Court program in Orlando, a type of restorative justice program for young offenders.
Ms. Day chose to teach in Bosnia-Herzegovina because of the complex postwar situation in the country. “Restorative justice is a model of dealing with conflict that empowers victims and involves community in healing the injuries caused by crime,” she says. “I think this is especially important in Bosnia, a country where everyone is a victim of the war and must face the challenges of moving on. The challenges are immense and made more difficult by the fact that there are no clear winners or losers. When war ends with winners and losers, there’s a basis for reparations and holding people accountable. This is made all the more difficult in Bosnia, when major war criminals remain at large.
As documented by journalists and war historians, the wars of the former Yugoslavia were territorial. The Serbians, who fought to control Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina after they became independent states, used religion and nationalism as calls to arms. Bosnian Muslims were the major cultural group to suffer genocide during this time.
The parallels with other major European genocides of the twentieth century were striking. With her previous work on the Holocaust archive project, the overlying themes of hatred and ethnicity-based killings struck a personal note with Ms. Day. “As a Jew, I identified with the Bosnian Muslims. This was not a military war. It was a war of genocide.”
Despite the fact that Bosnia has been scarred by a war provoked by ethnic and religious conflicts, historically Sarajevo was a very diverse and open city, she says. “There is a long history of cooperation and tolerance between Bosnians and its Jewish community. Sarajevo was one of the few European cities where Jews were not forced to live in a ghetto in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Sarajevo is often referred to as the “Jerusalem of Europe,” she clarifies, where mosques, churches, and synagogues peacefully co-exist in the city’s center.
Under another Fulbright award, Ms. Day went back to Sarajevo to teach for the spring 2002 semester and says she “felt a little less ‘welcomed’ this year than last. In the aftermath of September 11, the bombing in Afghanistan, and initiating the war on terrorism, there’s a growing concern that Americans are waging war on Islam and over-reaching its use of military power.
“America’s Middle East position also creates anti-American sentiment here,” she continues, speaking from Sarajevo. “Bosnians, particularly Muslim Bosnians, are overwhelmingly supportive of Palestinians and critical of the Israelis. America’s perceived support for Israel in the Middle East is another factor that supports the view that America is anti-Muslim.”
According to Ms. Day, victims are not typically included in criminal proceedings in Bosnia, as the system is based on judges and lawyers. She believes that implementing restorative justice programs could bring renewed faith in the criminal justice process because it makes people accountable for their actions. A community-action board—where community members discuss issues in their neighborhood with local police—is an example of restorative justice, as the community has a voice in how to curb crime by working directly with law enforcement officials. In turn, communities gain more trust in the criminal justice system as they see how criminals are retrained rather than merely imprisoned.
However, she adds, making people accountable through restitution or community service, for example, should not be punitive in nature. Rather, it should “focus on helping to build competency of the offender by learning to take responsibility, learning new skills, and understanding the consequences of his or her actions.” At present, restorative justice programs are primarily practiced in the United States, Germany, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
“The tenets of restorative justice, where the conflict and damages due to crime are resolved by those most involved, have ancient roots and have existed long before there were written codes and courts of justice” she says. However, in modern history, instead of the focus being on providing restitution to the victims, criminals have been punished primarily by the government and have had little contact with the victims.
Ms. Day believes that with the scars left by the Bosnian war, the implementation of restorative justice programs could bring renewed faith in the judicial process. By making criminals accountable for their actions and by promoting direct citizen involvement, Ms. Day hopes that citizens could feel more comfortable about the courts and police departments.
In a common-law system where both cases and statutes are the controlling authority, as in the United States, lawyers take an active role in shaping law. However, in countries like Bosnia, legal proceedings are based on codes, and lawyers have little room to influence judicial decisions, she says. Thus, “It is difficult for Bosnian students to see themselves as change agents in their justice system,” explains Ms. Day.
So, the focus in her classes was on the juvenile justice system (those under age 16), which is more malleable and receptive to innovative programs. Citizens in Bosnia-Herzegovina have not taken an active part in their legal process, as they were previously under a socialist government. Ms. Day hopes that her classes will “facilitate locals [Bosnians] to make changes in their judicial system and not have it done by outsiders.”
She recently gave a talk in Bosnia to judges and prosecutors (members of the Association of Criminal Law and Criminology) on restorative justice and the US juvenile court system. She plans to have the talk translated and published in a law journal in Sarajevo in the local language.
Although at present Ms. Day is in Sarajevo, she has exhausted her Fulbright opportunities for now. “But I have made some personal and professional relationships that I hope will be lifelong and afford me the opportunities to return.”
Susan Zaraysky is a freelance writer living in San Francisco.
Ms. Day is coauthor with Almir Maljevic of Teaching and Implementing Restorative Justice and Its Relevance to Criminal Justice in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 21st Century (2001, published in PRAVNA MISAO, Bosnia-Herzegovina).