Restorative justice is a paradigm that prioritises and seeks the long-term strengthening and reconstruction of crime-affected communities and families. It provides juvenile offenders, those under the age of 18, with alternative corrective action choices beyond those provided in regular legal systems. Among the benefits of restorative justice include its emphasis on victims rather than offenders, promotion of problem-solving tactics, and promotion of dialogue. Perceived downsides include the inability to prevent future offences and enforce fines. The technique has its fair share of proponents and detractors, but how effectively does it achieve its goals?
What Is Restorative Justice, and How Does It Operate?
According to the Restorative Justice Council, “restorative justice gives victims the opportunity to meet or interact with their offender to express the true impact of the crime; it gives victims a voice through empowering them.” It also holds offenders accountable for their actions and assists them in accepting responsibility and making amends.” The organisation says further that this strategy frequently incorporates conferences where victims and offenders meet face-to-face and engage in dialogue together.
The purpose of restorative justice is not to absolve perpetrators of the consequences of their actions or to grant them forgiveness, but rather to facilitate communication between the victim and offender. Restorative justice gives victims the opportunity to engage in meaningful kinds of engagement in the legal system, and this may include learning information that will assist them in recovering from their encounter with an offender.
In cases of non-violent or minor infractions, restorative justice may provide an alternative to legal proceedings. In other instances, the justice system will proceed with scheduled hearings, but restorative justice will be implemented as a supplement. Some courts may permit restorative justice before sentencing, while others may consider incorporating a type of restorative justice within an offender’s community service term.
In more severe cases where the criminal is sentenced to prison, restorative justice may occur either during the offender’s incarceration or after their release. It may take place via a monitored conference in a secure setting, correspondence, or recorded interviews or films.
Advantages of Restored Justice
In the traditional legal system, victims of crimes are rarely able to connect with the perpetrators who caused them harm. This reality leaves them with questions they wish they could ask the perpetrator or things they wish they could say to achieve closure or catharsis.
Similarly, perpetrators do not always have the opportunity to confront personal accountability when it comes to hearing directly from victims how their acts affected them. Occasionally, offenders may wish they had the chance to apologise or explain their acts.
Restorative justice is intended to offer both parties with an opportunity for resolution. The Centre for Justice and Reconciliation defines the three primary purposes of the process of restorative justice:
Repair: Rather than treating crime in a clinical manner, restorative justice recognises that it causes real harm to real people and real communities, thereby assisting all parties involved in gaining a more holistic understanding of the repercussions of crime.
Encounter: By bringing the victim and offender together in a safe manner, the offender is given the opportunity to make apologies instead of merely dealing with the legal repercussions of their conduct.
The objective of the restorative process is to facilitate transformation in both parties. According to certain studies, restorative justice strategies are more effective at enhancing victim-offender satisfaction, increasing the likelihood that offenders will comply with repercussions or reparation, and decreasing the possibility that offenders will reoffend in the future.
Negative aspects of restorative justice
Restorative justice may provide some advantages, but it also has its limitations. The case of violent crimes is one of the most prominent examples. Depending on the circumstances, facts and emotions might become extremely confusing in this domain.
In the case of a violent crime if the victim and perpetrator were acquainted before to the incident, the victim may wish to have no further contact with the perpetrator. In situations where violence has become a routine, such as domestic abuse, attempts to preserve a toxic victim-offender connection may be more dangerous than therapeutic.
Restorative justice also presumes that the perpetrator is contrite and willing to make amends, which is not always the case. Even if in-person encounters are supervised, there is always a chance that conversations will deteriorate and cause the victim extra emotional or mental distress.
On the other hand, even if the perpetrator is contrite, there is no assurance that the victim will accept an apology. Things may take an unexpected turn, and the victim or victims may interrogate the offender in a manner that proves to be counterproductive.
In cases of minor offences, attempts at restorative justice can sometimes result in a reduced sentence or the elimination of a criminal record. Whether or whether this is just varies from situation to instance.
Programmes de justice réparatrice
Various nations throughout the world are currently experimenting with restorative justice systems. Such programmes have emerged in North America due to an interest in traditions comparable to those originally formed by Native American and First Nations tribes. The Indigenous origins of restorative justice are increasingly receiving recognised in regions such as Africa and the Pacific Rim. Also tested in Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia have been experimental restorative justice projects.
Many of the most popular restorative justice initiatives to date have focused on juvenile offenders and family assistance cases. Not only have they helped victims and offenders move ahead, but they’ve also allowed both sides to agree on an amends process that provides suitable restitution, such as monetary compensation or community service.
Restorative Justice in Universities
Restorative justice has also been shown to be effective when administered effectively in schools. As an alternative to merely punishing kids or sending them to detention, several schools have attempted to implement restorative justice practises that address the root causes of negative behaviour.
Author and coach Shane Safir describes the method as follows: “Restorative justice (RJ) is an effective approach to punishment that focuses on mending harm through inclusive processes that involve all parties. When properly implemented, RJ transfers the emphasis of discipline from punishment to learning and from the individual to the community.
Restorative justice in a school context may take numerous forms, including:
Communicating with pupils and requesting that they reflect on the results of their actions
Instead than “lecturing” pupils on their behaviour, ask them questions.
Supervised mediation between two pupils under the supervision of school personnel or a group of peers.
Restorative Justice Illustrations
As you conduct research on the implementation of restorative justice, you will come across a number of poignant accounts of people whose lives the process has profoundly affected. Among them is the story of an ex-convict named Cachene, who joined the Circle of Support and Accountability (CoSA) programme after his release from prison. Even though he was initially anxious about life after prison, the programme provided him all the assistance he required to get back on track. Now, he gives back to the community by sharing his experience with young criminals in an effort to prevent them from making the same mistakes.
While incarcerated in Australia, Robert participated in the Sycamore Tree Project, a restorative justice programme. “This is the first time I’ve ever done anything behind bars that has made me reflect on what I’ve actually done, as opposed to ‘what am I going to do to keep out of trouble’ or ‘how am I going to get myself out of here?'”
One unidentified victim who participated in the process emphasised the emotional benefits afforded by restorative justice: “[My abuser] couldn’t comprehend why I would want to forgive him. I explained that I no longer wanted to carry around what he had done to me. I had moved on, so forgiving him was for my own benefit, not his. I desired an apology, and I received one… Without restorative justice, it would have been difficult for me to go on with my life. Visit the website of the Centre for Justice and Reconciliation for other uplifting stories from participants.