1. What is meant by restorative justice? Why is it so difficult to define?
Restorative justice is described as reparative justice that it is referred to as a kind of the justice system. It is focused on the needs of offenders and those of victims. According to Daly & Hayes (2002), restorative justice also takes care of the needs of the community being involved into a crime. Restorative justice is different from other systems of justice because it does not seek to satisfy legal principles. Most of these concepts are abstract or punish an offender. In restorative justice, the victims are actively involved into the entire process. This involves offenders being encouraged to accept the responsibility for crimes committed by them (Daly & Hayes, 2002).
Developing Restorative Practice: Contemporary Lessons from an English Juvenile Diversion Project of the 1980s
A report published by a contemporary justice review has indicated that encouraging perpetrators show remorse before the victims have a positive impact on the whole restorative justice process. The report insisted that giving offenders an opportunity to reflect upon their acts helps to lessen the tensions between the two parties. According to the study, restorative justice must be focused on both the personal needs of an offender and a victim. This way, future offences are avoided because the offender is helped to bear the responsibility. According to restorative justice, a wrongdoing and a crime are both a fault either committed against an individual or a community and not an offense against the state. Restorative justice, therefore, seeks to foster a kind of dialogue between the offender and the victim so that the victims are being satisfied with the level of accountability the offender has showed (Smith, 2011).
It is not easy to define the term restorative justice because it does not have one standard definition. The reason why the term is so difficult to determine is due to the fact that it is not the particular practice but a set of principles.Restorative justice has been defined by some as a process through which all those affected by injustice or offenses get a chance to discuss the way the offense has affected them. Through these discussions, both parties have the opportunity to repair the damage already done. Restorative justice moves away from the belief that crime is done against the state and that offenders should be punished. Instead, it focusses on healing both parties because of the idea that the crime hurts.
Conversations between the culprits and suffers are a central part of the restorative justice process. Restorative justice requires that the responsibility is being shifted to healing and that all affected by this crime are being actively involved into the entire process. This does not mean that the law professionals are not included. They have the secondary role of facilitating the entire process while the citizens are having the primary responsibility in the restorative justice process.
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2. Positive and Negative Features of Restorative Justice for Young Offenders
Facing up to Offending: Use of Restorative Justice in the Criminal Justice System
The study by the criminal justice joint inspection has indicated that despite a successful court process and a conviction of culprits, victims and their families remain traumatized and often devastated. The study has emphasised on the adoption of restorative justice to ensure that victims and offenders initiate the communication. According to the study, such a process would ensure that both parties play their role in repairing the damage (Arolygiad & Tresoddol, 2011).
Restorative justice is not like the other process of justice such as the civil litigation or an adversarial legal process. While the other process only is dealing with the issues that are legally relevant and protecting the rights of those affected by an offense, restorative justice addresses all issues including those that may not be legally appropriate. Some of these issues include underlying relationships of all stakeholders. This is the reason why it is concerned with striking the balance among various tensions existing. Like any other system, restorative justice has both positive and negative features such as the ability to balance among both retributive and therapeutic models of justice.
Restorative justice also attends to the needs of both victims of the crime and of the young offenders so that neither party feels that the needs have been violated. Restorative justice also allows offenders to be rehabilitated while the public is still being protected from the possibility of more crimes to be committed. A restorative justice system is not like the traditional criminal justice system which tries to address such issues as the kind of laws broken. The individuals breaking the law and the things, which can be done to the offenders, deserve the punishments given to them. Restorative justice seeks to discover the needs of the person that has been harmed and attempts to find out the people obligated to address these needs.
Restorative justice is not a program. On the contrary, it is a number of concepts which, when properly put together and implemented, can be very effective. Justice is administered to the victim, the young offender as well as the community. The punitive features of incarceration are not mitigated or undermined. The offender is put to a task to take some responsibilities for the crimes he or she has committed. Restorative justice seeks to facilitate the offenders’ change of attitude and morality. High moral standards and reasoning abilities are both the qualities that offenders lack because of their poor upbringing, abuse and neglect.
Restorative justice allows for the young offenders to be honoured through some interpersonal relationships. It is, therefore, concerned about the fact that all humans deserve to be given honour and not treated as the objects. This is due to the fact that it is when people are objectified that they have ended up committing crimes. Restorative justice makes more sense when it is regarded as a process restoring people to have dignity and feel humans again. Restorative justice does not necessarily offer new practices. It only provides a new view and approach to justice where the crime is regarded as the crime that needs to be repaired.
The other positive feature of restorative justice is the fact able to act as a unifying umbrella to other approaches to justice. This is the reason why the proponents of the restorative approach to justice believe that the crime results into the loss of trust to the people involved. This is the reason why restorative justice seeks to have this trust being restored. The process allows the offenders to show the victims and the society that they can be trusted again. They believe that the overall goal of the justice system should be restored as the trust is lost when the crime has been committed. It is not, however, meant to replace the other forms of justice such as the punishment and incapacitation.
Restorative justice is also great because it is a problem-solving approach that requires all young offenders involved and brought together to find the solution to a problem. Those people being seriously affected by such offense as the victim of the crime, the families of victims and the general community. They are brought together by the process in order for the solution to be arrived at. The other positive inspective of restorative justice to young offenders is the fact that the person gets another chance for becoming the part of his or her community. These young offenders do this by actively taking the responsibility for crimes that they have committed.
Restorative justice, like any other process, has both positive and negative features with regard to its applicability to young offenders. One issue that has arisen over the years has been that of prioritization. There some cases have been found suitable for restorative justice and not the other one. Restorative justice has been found to be less suitable for such serious offenses as those committed by the person with a past criminal record. There are those scholars arguing that this point is baseless. The studies have, however, shown that restorative justice is more successful for juveniles or young offenders; the first time offenders when compared with the success it has on older offenders or criminals with the past criminal record. They insist that restorative justice or mediation as the process is commonly referred to as by justice agencies being effective both for minor and serious criminal offenses (Griffiths, 1996).
The success rate of this process, however, depends on a number of factors including the considerations made concerning the feelings, attitudes, social situations and motivations of the offender at the time when the crime was being committed. The offenders will get a chance to apologize before their victims as a way of expressing remorse. It has been found to be a better form of justice than retributive justice. This kind of justice only focuses on punishing the offender. The community is healed and the bonds broken by a criminal act as restored.
The other positive feature of restorative justice is the fact that the offenders come together with other members of the society in the efforts to find the best way forward. This is because restorative justice can only be effective if a lot of emphases are put on the process of reconciliation. The young offenders are empowered to undergo the rehabilitation after taking the responsibility for their actions. Even though restorative justice may not be applicable to all cases, it is still very useful in the reduction of reoffenders. It will help the victims and also increase the level of confidence that the public has on the justice system.
For offenders, restorative justice gives them the opportunity to say why they may have committed the crime they are accused of in the efforts to make things right. They also get a chance to repair the damage they have caused to the victim in cases where this is possible. Although most of the times the offender comes face to face with the victim, there are other forms of restorative justice where the offender does not meet with the victim. Such process is known as the victim-offender mediation. The victim-offender mediation is a process where the communication occurring between the offender and the victim is facilitated or supervised by a mediator being specially trained.
3. Positive and Negative Features of Restorative Justice with Victims
The Politics of Risk and Young Offenders Experiences of Social Exclusion and Restorative Justice
The study conducted by the British journal of criminology established that the politics surrounding the question of crime management in the society has neglected the aspect of restorative justice. According to the study restorative justice has both positive and negative features for the victims of crimes committed. Restorative justice has a primary objective of responding to the needs of a sufferer. These needs could be financial, material, social or emotional ones. These needs do not stop just with the victim. The people being the closest ones to the victim may also be affected by offenses having the needs that must be met. Restorative justice also ensures that the victim has been satisfied with the entire justice system. Victims are able to come face to face with the offenders through some reconciliation panels (Gray, 2005).
There are also some disadvantages to this process. There are those victims that would not feel comfortable coming face to face with those offenders like in cases of a sexual assault. The process, therefore, does not become very effective when the victim is put under pressure to take part in the system.
Restorative justice has been found to be useful especially in dealing with the needs of victims. This is because the research has shown that the needs of victims of crimes are not independent of the needs of offenders or those in the society. This was the reason why it has been felt that agencies of justice should actively engage all stakeholders if any impact was made. Restorative justice is primarily concerned with the process of restoration for all the concerned ones, including the victim. The damage caused to the victim by the offender should be restored. This restoration process is not solely concerned with the past. It also seeks to address some present issues as well as those that may arise in future.
The negative features as far as the needs of victims are concerned. This is the fact that sometimes restorative justice does not seem to punish the offender enough. Naturally, the victim and the wider society would wish to see a severe punishment meted out to offenders. Reform agencies have, however, realized that the harsh punishment is actually counter-productive. This is the reason why restorative justice is seen as a better approach. It seeks to pay attention to the victim’s needs in order to heal the society. This way the society allows the offenders to be rehabilitated.
Dinnen (2003) has reckoned that the other negative feature of restorative justice system for victims is the fact that the offender could refuse to take the responsibility for the crime committed. The only way to ensure that the system works effectively is to get the young offenders accepting that they have committed some crimes. As well they are willing to take the responsibility for their deeds. This will give the victims the opportunity to vent out and hear while the society also is getting a chance to rehabilitate errant members of the community. Restorative justice is also not a soft option as it may appear, at first. For the victim, it is not always easy to get the offender to take the responsibility for the crimes committed.
The research has consistently shown that many of the victims through the restorative justice process have found it as very useful. They have reported of the satisfaction with the process. This process of restorative justice is, therefore, the one that has proven to be successful because it promises the reduction of the number of the criminal activity happening from time to time. The studies have also shown that offenders undergoing the mechanism of restorative justice process are less likely to commit the crimes as compared to those ones. They have been through the more traditional justice system.
The restorative justice process does not have to be implemented in isolation. It can also be combined with other forms of interventions. When implemented properly, the restorative justice system is capable of allowing the criminal justice system to achieve most of its goals. The process will help to reassure the general public. Thus, that crime is reduced and the anti-social behavior is taken care of. The process also increases the willingness of the community to engage in the criminal justice system.
Restorative justice also has some positive effects for victims because it gives them the opportunity to speak out about the real impacts that the crime has had on their lives. The victims then get to actively participate in the process of finding the solutions to the crime committed. The victims also get the chance to ask their offenders the questions that they may have had. The answers provided by the offenders may help to heal wounds or put the minds of victims at peace. This will allow the victims to find the ways of repairing the damage caused to them by the offenders.
The public always demands that offenders have been given some serious punishments. Sometimes these expectations are not easy to meet. The people working with offenders while trying to reform them, therefore, have to find the way of balancing the needs of victims. Those of offenders as well as the expectations of the community in the effort should achieve the balance. The most important person in the process of restorative justice is the victim the needs of whom must be put first. The victims and the offenders are all the part of the community. They try to meet their needs that will be the same as satisfying the needs of the society. This means that the offender can only be rehabilitated once other objectives of the restorative justice process have been achieved. The one point of concern for justice agencies is cost associated with the process of restorative justice because many members of the community have been involved (Maxwell & Morris, 1993).
The research has shown that restorative justice has a positive effect on the victims because different people with stakes in the particular offense are brought together in order to find the solution able to last. The harms caused by the offense towards a victim are identified and addressed at length. This is considered as the first of the victim that must be in the centre of the whole process. Restorative justice is able to make use of other practices within the criminal justice process. The process allows cases to be diverted from the court prosecution so that action can be taken. These decisions made must be parallel with those made at the court rooms. When the victims meet with offenders at any stage of the criminal justice process, the professional mediator must be present to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
Restorative justice is not entirely new as it has been practiced in the past especially in indigenous communities used, particularly, while dealing with young offenders. It was famous for criminal matters involving adults as well as a number of civil matters.
There are those programs that have been found as effective when applied to restorative justice. Such practices include that of treating the victim and the offender as though the two parties being a family. A theatre is also a form of sentencing such as forum and circle sentencing, reparation, mediation and conferences that bring together the offenders and victims. These programs are designed in such a way that they create a direct form of interaction between the victims, the criminals and the society. All the stakeholders are given the chance to interact and have a dialogue. This dialogue will allow the community to allocate the responsibility appropriately and to understand one another accordingly (Latimer & Kleinknecht, 2000).
According to Canberra experiment conducted in the year 2001, those people that have committed crimes find it easy to understand the process of criminal justice when they are given a chance to express themselves. It gives them the sense of empowerment when they get to give their views within the practical timeframes. Offenders also get a feeling of their rights and freedoms being respected by the authorities. The Community Justice Centres are the perfect examples of how the process of restorative justice can be implemented in the community (Gray, 2005).
These Community Justice Centres provide the appropriate environment that is required by the culprits and suffers to resolve the issues and disputes or avoid the entire system of the criminal justice. Restorative justice may be hard to implement because there are some instances when the victims do not trust the words spoken by offenders. The offenders may also find it hard to communicate with a thaw panel for the mediators. They may fear that their words could implicate them in the crimes that could have gone unpunished. This lack of trust, especially by offenders, makes it hard for the mediators achieve that they may have set out to achieve (Golub, 2003).
This has been overcome by the assurance given by mediators that any sort of evidence concerning the criminal activity is gathered in the process of restorative justice. It cannot be used by a prosecutor in the court of law. The offenders, however, still find this assurance hard to believe and often shy away from talking freely during some mediation talks. More needs should be done to restore the confidence that all the stakeholders in the process of restorative justice that are confident that the process of restorative justice is the one that can be trusted.
4. How Could Restorative Justice with Both Victims and Young Offenders to Be Improved
Hayes & Daly (2003) have restated that restorative justice can still be improved in order to make it more effective. There is the need for the views of other practitioners in the justice system to be taken into consideration. This will ensure that the youth justice system has been integrated with the restorative justice system. Partner agencies also need to be brought on board to make the process more effective. Restorative justice should be made a part and a parcel of the sentence given to offenders (Stevens, 2000). There should be the performance indicators in order to establish whether or not the restorative justice process has been the success or not.
There should be a strategy in place that seeks to promote the practice of restorative justice especially among national as well as local partner agencies. There will be the need to implement some system changes. System changes will include changing the criminal justice system in order to make the needs of the victims’ center-stage so that their voices could be heard. This will allow them to feel that their needs and rights are being respected. There will also be the need to develop a prevention strategy (Dignan, 2000). This prevention strategy should include partnering with the Department for Education to ensure that restorative justice is being used also at schools (“Law Commission of Canada”, 2003).
In this regard, restorative justice supports some efforts by the government to make the justice process faster. The restorative justice system is capable of delivering some opportunities for a conflict resolution being more intensive and sophisticated. The behavior of both a victim and an offender are closely monitored to avoid the reoccurrence of the criminal offence. In the future, restorative justice should also be practiced in learning institutions as a way of dealing with the conflicts and managing bullying. This will reduce the chances of young people getting involved into further criminal activity as they will be held accountable at all times.