Three years ago, Paul Littlejohn, the accomplice in a shooting that killed Sharletta Evans’ son in Colorado, began to self-rehabilitate,” reports the Denver Post. He agreed to a dialogue with Evans, and they met behind the walls of historic Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility in Cañon City. “I went in with the minimal amount of expectations I could muster up,” Evans says. “I didn’t know if I would be let down, if it would be a total disaster.” Lynn Lee, a facilitator for victim-offender dialogues, works to keep that from happening. She explains that the intense preparation for the meeting, which takes three to four months, helps both the victim and offender think about what they hope to achieve through the process — and what they have to offer the other.
Evans’ 2012 dialogue with her child’s killer grew out of 2011 legislation creating the pilot program, says Monica Chambers, the corrections department’s victim services coordinator. After three pilot cases, restorative justice became an official program in 2014. The dialogue with Littlejohn marked the 10th in a strictly victim-initiated process that addresses violent crimes. Chambers is researching another dozen possibilities, which require not only a victim request but also a willing offender. So far, every offender asked has embraced the opportunity. “It has to match up,” Chambers says, “or a dialogue doesn’t happen. It’s not for everybody — it’s a head-scratcher to a lot of people, really. When victims are looking for answers no one else can give them, it’s invaluable to the healing process.”