Accountability, what does it really mean?

"Accountability" as a term to describe restorative justice.  The idea/definition of accountability is counter to how we think/talk about justice.

Accountability: required to explain actions or decisions to someone.

Wikipedia: It is frequently described as an account-giving relationship between individuals, e.g. "A is accountable to B when A is obliged to inform B about A’s (past or future) actions and decisions, to justify them, and to suffer punishment in the case of eventual misconduct".

The idea conveyed by this term is that someone is holding another person accountable.  When in fact restorative systems allow the author to hold themselves accountable or we (a whole community that includes the author) are holding everyone (ourselves) accountable (mutual accountability).  RJ is grounded in the philosophy that responsibility is met with action.  If there is responsibility and no action there is no justice.  Yet, when the author, who is responsible for the harm takes action to repair the harm... that is justice.  It needs no authority, punishment, or even forgiveness.

Our current discussions around police violence and Communities of Color tend to pit one group against the other.  Communities of Color are speaking (some demanding) about holding the police accountable.  And, police departments demanding that everyone (read: people of color) follow police directions without question and we'll sort it out after.  Our Communities of Color are trying to exercise the same power dynamic over the police, force.  This becomes a common school yard argument "you have to trust me... then I'll trust you."  When the more holistic solution would be for communities and police work together and build that trust and relationships.  Largely everyone wants the same outcomes when it comes to community safety.

If RJ communities continue to use the traditional meaning of "accountability" we may continue to support adversarial systems.  The same adversarial system that got us into this mess in the first place.  I challenge you to use accountability in a way to fosters authors to take deep accountability of their actions.  I hope we move to a place were individuals are taking their own accountability.



(I am a person of color and a federal law enforcement officer in the Coast Guard Reserve).