“Tough Case is both immensely entertaining and starkly revealing about contemporary youth justice problems and how they can be resolved with the aid of restorative justice. Don’t miss it!”
– Prof. Bruce Archibald, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
One act drama.
The story centres on Nessa, a restorative justice worker who grew up in a tough, north Halifax, housing project. Her background allows her to connect with Dane, a sixteen-year old young offender who has hideously vandalized the home of an elderly widow, Grace Ross. Dane is always accompanied by his mother, Marjorie, a woman deeply protective of her son in spite of his crime. We discover she and her son are fleeing from an abusive relationship with Dane’s father. Nessa tries to contact the victim, but Grace Ross is too traumatized to speak and too fearful to sleep in her own home. Nessa meets instead with Tom, Grace’s son, who attacks the process that he sees as a “slap on the wrist”. To Tom, restorative is a make work project for progressives who are too unrealistic to realize that only punishment works. We see Nessa confront and cajole these angry, hurt people to attend a meeting where Dane and Grace must face each other and where the real truth (and reconciliation) emerges.
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I was commissioned to write this play by Jennifer Llewelyn although persuaded, cajoled, encouraged and prodded may be better words to describe the process. Jennifer is the Director of the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Community University Research Association (the NSRJ-CURA) in Halifax, Nova Scotia and one of Canada’s foremost authorities on the process of Restorative Justice (RJ). Nova Scotia has the largest RJ practice in North America and the second largest in the world (second only to New Zealand). Any youth, between the ages of 11 and 18, charged by the police can referred to RJ instead of going through the regular court system. It has been running for over ten years, resulted in a decreased level of recidivism (the rate at which offenders reoffend) and is almost universally unknown in that province. Hence the play.
But what is RJ? Essentially it is a different way of looking at wrong doing. It asks the questions: What happened? Who was hurt? What can be done to make the hurt better? There are many different models but what is common to all is the attempt to bring the offender together with the victim at a meeting or circle or conference. In the Nova Scotia practice, each of these parties may invite people to provide support as well as members of the community who have been affected however distant. The result, at its best, is a process which restores relationships by providing power to the victim and an opportunity to regain dignity for the offender.
Dramatically bringing someone who was hurt together with the person who was responsible for the hurt provides a very tense situation. Everyone is on edge. Everyone has expectation which may or may not be met. It is a ‘court room drama without the courtroom’.
In creating the play, Jennifer commissioned me to spend a month in Nova Scotia travelling to four different RJ agencies and attending three RJ circles as well as speaking with judges, attorneys, professionals from Corrections Canada, a Deputy Chief of Police, Community Response Officers and RJ participants. I had an amazing level of access and I took advantage of it.
The play that resulted now has two forms. The seven actor version that toured Nova Scotia in the spring of 2011 (5 professional actors plus two community actors playing small roles) and a five actor version which dispenses with the two community actor roles. This latter was commissioned by Roseneath Theatre and toured Ontario for seven weeks in the Spring of 2012.
-David S. Craig
Tough Case was commissioned by Jennifer Llewellyn, the Director the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Community University Research Association in 2009. The goal was to create a one act play for high school students that would dramatize restorative justice (RJ) as it is practiced in Nova Scotia. The playwright, David S. Craig, spent three weeks in Nova Scotia where he met with RJ professionals, victims, offenders, judges, prosecutors, police chiefs, constables and attended RJ conferences.
The play that emerged was produced by Left Foot First Productions, Halifax on March 29th, 2011 sponsored by the Nova Scotia Departments of Justice, Education, Community Services and Correctional Services Canada. The play toured to high schools throughout Nova Scotia, reaching 28,000 young people. The tour ended with a special performance at the International Restorative Justice Conference on June 15th, 2011.
In March of 2012, the play was revised and produced by Roseneath Theatre in Toronto under the direction of Richard Greenblatt. The play toured to Ontario high schools, universities and correctional facilities for seven weeks.
In November of 2012, Manitoba Theatre for Young People produced the play for public and school performances.