Texas’ Restorative Justice Movement Is At The Heart Of ‘There Is A Balm In Huntsville’

“Texas became the first state in the nation to offer this victim-offender dialogue program,” says the author, and it helped a man who had killed two teenagers while driving drunk.

By Laura RiceAugust 27, 2019 12:33 pm, ,

T. Carlos Anderson is a longtime Protestant minister, and author of the book, “There Is a Balm in Huntsville: A True Story of Tragedy and Restoration From the Heart of the Texas Prison System.

The book concerns Anderson’s work with a man who killed two teenagers in a drunk-driving collision, years after the crime.

“I had family relations with the perpetrator of this crime,” Anderson says.

By that, Anderson means that the man’s grandparents were congregants of his church.

That person, Andrew, served 17 years in prison, and when he was released, Anderson asked him to speak to the teenagers in his congregation about drunk driving. Anderson says hearing his story in person changed him.

“I thought, ‘Wow, this is a story that’s gotta be told on a wider scale,’” Anderson says.

He says Andrew was a “teenage alcoholic,” and had also dropped out of high school. He killed the teenagers in a head-on collision, and eventually pleaded guilty out of remorse.

“He was, up to this point, told to plead ‘not guilty, that’s how the system works,’” Anderson says. “But he decided to plead guilty [and] received a long sentence.”

While Andrew was in prison, he decided – and attempted – to make an amends for killing the teenagers. Anderson says his book is about how Andrew went about that process – something Anderson says is probably one of “the worst mistakes in [Andrew’s] life.”

“And so he attempted to do that, and that’s what the book is all about,” Anderson says.

Joel Halbert

Ellen Halbert with author T. Carlos Anderson. Halbert is a survivor of a crime, which Anderson wrote about in his book.

He calls this “restorative justice” – the concept of someone trying to repair the harm done by a crime they committed. He writes about it in the book.

“It’s not necessarily about forgiveness, but it’s more so about accountability and responsibility,” Anderson says.

Anderson says the process worked for Andrew; he called restorative justice a “balm of healing” for him. That’s how Anderson got the title for the book.

“At the heart of the book is just an incredible story,” Anderson says. “And it tells the story of how Texas became the first state in the nation to offer this victim-offender dialogue program.”

This story has been edited to clarify that Anderson is not a relative of Andrew’s, but knows Andrew’s family through his church.


Written by Caroline Covington.