Would you ever forgive a person who kills a member of your family?
In September of 2019,
在 2019 年 9 月，
Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was sentenced for murder,
达拉斯警察安柏尔 · 盖格 （Amber Guyger）因谋杀被判刑，
and then the brother of the victim
Brandt Jean was 18 years old,
当时布兰特 · 基恩 （Brandt Jean）18 岁，
and I joined the rest of the country watching on television in awe
at that act of grace.
But I also worried.
I worried that people who are African American like Brandt Jean
我担心像布兰特 · 基恩 这样的非裔美国人
are expected to forgive more often than other people.
And I worried that a white police officer like Amber Guyger
我也担心像安柏尔 · 盖格 这样的白人警员，
receives a lesser sentence
than other people who commit wrongful killings.
But because I'm a law professor,
I also worried about the law itself.
The law leans so severely towards punishment these days
that it's part of the problem.
And that's what I want to talk about here.
The powerful example of one individual's forgiveness
makes me worry that lawyers and officials too often overlook the tools
that law itself creates to allow forgiveness,
when the principle should be the cornerstone of a thriving society.
I worry that lawyers and officials do not adequately use the tools of forgiveness,
by which I mean letting go of justified grievance.
And those tools are many.
They include pardons, commutations, expungement,
bankruptcy for debt
and the discretion that's held by police and prosecutors and judges.
But I also worry -- I worry a lot --
I worry that these tools, when used, replicate the disparities,
the inequities along the lines of race and class and other markers
of advantage and disadvantage.
Biases or privileged access are at work
when United States presidents pardon people charged with crimes.
Historically, white people are pardoned four times as often
as members of minority groups for the same crime, same sentence.
Forgiveness between individuals is supported by every religious tradition,
every philosophic tradition.
And medical evidence now shows
the health benefits of letting go of grievances and resentments.
As Nelson Mandela led South Africa's transition
from apartheid to democracy,
"Resentment is like drinking a poison and hoping it will kill your enemies."
Law can remove the penalties for those who apologize and seek forgiveness.
For example, in 39 states in the United States
比如，在美国的 39 个州
and the District of Columbia,
there are laws that allow medical professionals to apologize
when something goes wrong
and not fear that that statement could later be used against them
in an action for damages.
More actively, bankruptcy law offers debtors, under some conditions,
the chance to start anew.
Pardons and expungements sealing criminal records can, too.
I have been teaching law for almost 40 years, hard to believe,
不敢相信，我教了快 40 年的法律，
but recently, I realized
that we don't teach law students about the tools of forgiveness
that are within the legal system,
and nor do law schools usually explore
the potential for new avenues for forgiveness
that law can adopt or assist.
These are lost opportunities.
These are lost obligations, even,
because the students that I teach
will become prosecutors, judges, governors, presidents.
Barack Obama, my former student,
巴拉克 · 奥巴马（Barack Obama) 就是我以前的学生，
used his power as the President of the United States to give pardons.
That released several hundred people from prison after the law changed
to provide shorter sentences for the same drug crimes
for which they had been convicted.
But if he hadn't used his pardon power, they would still be in prison.
Legal tools of forgiveness should be used more,
but not without reason and not with bias.
A "New Yorker" cartoon shows a judge with a big nose and a big mustache
looking down at a defendant with the exact same nose
and exact same mustache
and says, "Obviously not guilty."
Forgiveness could undermine the commitment that law has
to treat people the same under the same circumstances,
to apply rules evenly.
In this age of resentment, mass incarceration,
widespread consumer debt,
we need more forgiveness, but we need a philosophy of forgiveness.
We need to forgive fairly.
Contrast the treatment globally of child soldiers
with the treatment of juvenile offenders in the United States.
International human rights condemn and punish adults
who involve children in armed conflict
as those most responsible,
but treat the children themselves quite differently.
The International Criminal Court,
now with 122 member nations,
现在有 122 个成员国，
convicted Thomas Lubanga, warlord in the [Democratic Republic of the] Congo,
该法庭将刚果（民主共和国）的军阀 托马斯 · 卢班加（Thomas Lubanga）定罪，
for enlisting, recruiting and deploying children, teens, as soldiers.
Many nations commit to ensuring that people under the age of 15
许多国家致力于 确保 15 岁以下的人
do not become child soldiers,
and most nations treat those who do become soldiers
not as objects of punishment
but as people deserving a fresh start.
Compare and contrast how the United States treats juvenile offenders,
where we severely punish minors,
often moving them to adult courts, even adult prisons.
And yet, like child soldiers,
teens and children are drawn into violent activity in the United States
when there are few options,
when they are threatened
or when adults induce them with money or ideology.
The rhetoric of innocence is resonant when we talk about child soldiers,
but not when we talk about teen gang members in the United States.
Yet in both settings, youth are caught in worlds that are made by adults,
and forgiveness can offer both accountability and fresh starts.
What if, instead, young people caught in criminal activity and violence
could have chances to accept responsibility
while learning and rebuilding their lives and their own communities?
Legal frameworks inviting youth to describe their conduct
could also involve community members to hear and forgive.
Called "restorative justice,"
这被称为“修复式司法” （restorative justice），
such efforts emphasize accountability and service
rather than punishment.
Many schools in the United States have turned to use restorative justice methods
to resolve conflicts and to prevent them,
and to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline.
Some American high schools have replaced automatic suspensions
with opportunities for victims to narrate their experiences
and for offenders to take responsibility for their actions.
As they describe their experiences and feelings about a theft
or hateful graffiti or a verbal or physical assault,
the victims and offenders often express strong emotions.
And other members of the community take turns
describing the impact of the offense on them.
The leader is often a student peer, who is trained to deescalate the conflict
and orchestrate a conversation about what the offender can do
that would help the victim.
Together, they come to an agreement about how to move forward,
what the wrongdoer can do to repair the injury
and what all could do to better avoid future conflicts.
Consider this example, recently in a publication.
A young woman named Mercedes M. transferred, in California,
一名位于加州，名叫梅赛德斯 · M 的年轻女性，
from one high school to another
after she was so repeatedly suspended in her old high school
for getting into fights.
And here in her new high school,
two other young women accused her of lying
and called her the b-word.
A counselor came over and talked to her and earned enough trust
that she acknowledged she had stolen the shoes of one of the other classmates.
Turns out, the three of them had known each other for a long time,
and they didn't know any other way to deal with each other
other than to fight.
The facilitator invited them to participate in a circle,
a confidential conversation about what happened,
and they agreed.
And initially, each of them expressed a lot of emotion.
And then Mercedes apologized.
And she said she had stolen the shoes,
but she did so because she wanted to sell them
and take the money to pay for a drug test
so that her mother could show she was clean
and try to regain custody of two younger children
who were then in state protective care.
The other girls heard this,
saw Mercedes crying
and they hugged her.
They did not ask her to return what she'd stolen,
but they did say they wanted a restart.
They wanted a reason they could trust her.
Later, Mercedes explained
that she was sure she would have been suspended
if they hadn't had this process.
And her high school has reduced suspensions by more than half
through the use of this kind of restorative justice method.
Restorative justice alternatives involve offenders and victims
in communicating in ways
that an adversarial and defensive process does not allow,
and it's become the go-to method
in places like the District of Columbia juvenile justice system
and innovations like Los Angeles's Teen Court.
If tuned to fairness,
forgiveness methods like bankruptcy would be available
not only for the for-profit college that goes belly-up
but also for the students stuck with the loans;
pardons would not be given to campaign contributors;
and black men would no longer have 20 percent longer criminal sentences
than do white men,
due to how judges exercise discretion.
Forgiveness across the board is one way to avoid such biases.
Sometimes, a society just needs a reset
when it comes to punishment and debt.
The Bible calls for periodic forgiveness of debts
and freeing prisoners,
and it recently helped to inspire a global movement.
Jubilee 2000 joined Pope John Paul II
还有超过 60 个国家参与的 Jubilee 2000。
and rock star Bono and over 60 nations
in an effort to seek the cancellation and succeed in canceling
the debt of developing countries,
最终，总计超过 1000 亿美元
amounting to over 100 billion dollars
of debt canceled,
resulting in measurable reduction in poverty.
In a similar spirit, there are people who are copying the techniques
of commercial debt collectors
这些公司花费几美分 就能购买 1 美元的债务，
who purchase debt for pennies on the dollar
and then seek to enforce it.
深夜电视节目主持人 约翰 · 奥利弗（John Oliver）
Late-night television host John Oliver partnered with a nonprofit group
与一家叫 RIP Medical Debt 的非盈利组织合作，
called RIP Medical Debt,
and for only 60,000 dollars,
他们就购买了价值 1500 万美元的医疗债务，
they purchased 15 million dollars' worth of medical debt,
and then they forgave it.
那使得近 9000 人可以 重新开始他们的生活，
That allowed nearly 9,000 people to have a restart in their lives.
This kind of precedent should trigger and encourage more such actions.
It's time for a reset,
given mass incarceration,
medical and consumer debt
and given indigent criminal defendants
who are charged and put in debt
because they're expected to pay for their own probation officers
and their own electronic monitors.
Forgiving violations of law
or promises to pay back loans
does pose risks.
Forgiveness may encourage more violations.
Economists even have a name for it.
They call it "moral hazard."
Should there be amnesty for immigration violations?
Should a president offer pardons to protect himself
or to induce lawbreaking?
These are tough questions for our time.
But escalating resentments hold their own dangers.
So does attributing blame to individuals
for circumstances largely outside their own control.
To ask how law may forgive is not to deny the fact of wrongdoing.
Rather, it's to widen the lens
to enable glimpses of the larger patterns
and to enable new choices that can go forward
if we can wipe the slate clean.