Restorative justice and the positive implications to the criminal justice system

Restorative justice and the positive implications to the criminal justice system

Restorative justice can best be described as a move away from the traditional mechanisms focusing on retribution and rehabilitation towards a more modern approach where the victim and the offender collaborate to reach an agreement over the crime. This drastic change in the criminal justice system was initially introduced in the 1970s in the United States. For instance, the US criminal justice system focused on the retribution model, which highlighted deterrence and punishment through the adversarial trial system and the rehabilitation model, which focused on providing assistance to criminals for improving their behavior and outlook.

The reason why restorative justice seems so attractive is because it emphasizes broken relationships that are created due to the crime and the needs of both the victim and the offender. Restorative justice acknowledges that the crime affects the victims as well as society. The idea behind this model is that the crime results from a sense of disharmony in society and that instead of the strict court-based methods, more unique solutions are devised. It is known for its meetings where people who have been affected by the crime discuss their own experience and consequences of the harm caused as well as discussing the way in which the predicament can be resolved on a more personal and subjective level. Indeed, there has been extensive research, which show that restorative justice assists many victims who take part by decreasing their passion for vengeance and by relieving inevitable stress suffered by the victim.

Restorative justice is attractive as it allows victims to address their offenders about the crime and the influence the crime had on their lives as well as the victim’s. Furthermore, the process includes an apology for the act the offenders had committed. This process can be favorable as it provides the opportunity for the offenders to realize the nature of their actions and the impact those actions had as well as the opportunity for them to remedy the damage caused. Another positive note about restorative justice is that it can lead to unification for offenders and a collective resolution for the problems caused. The process focuses on the victims’ needs before anything else, thinking about solutions to provide support and for the offender to realize the drastic nature of their actions. These conferences allow the opportunity for offenders, their victims and their family members as well as friends to collaborate in order to find the way in which the harm can be rectified for the greater good. A victim can request this approach in order to assist an offender to really grasp the nature of the crime and its impact on other individual lives for the purpose of really letting go of the crime and to forgive the offender for the actions. Focusing on the United Kingdom, this process reduced the number of crimes, with fewer crimes taking place by offenders who had participated in the process. Moreover, this process should be considered on a further note as it is an advantageous process in terms of finance.

Direct mediation is a mechanism in which this process is executed and involves the victim, offender and facilitator and perhaps other individuals to collaborate in face to face meetings for discussions to take place. Whereas, another method is using conferencing, which involves supporters from both parties. Criminal cases usually always involve the victim being given the opportunity to discuss the impact of the crime on their personal life and offenders can also express their own feelings and opinions over the crime to further elaborate on how the crime had impacted their lives. However, in social justice cases, usually the less fortunate and impoverished individuals such as foster children are able to give their opinions and viewpoints on their futures and are even encouraged to plan their futures to avoid any future commissions of a crime. Once the offender and victims meet with their respective parties and discuss the act, an agreement is made over the way in which the damage will be repaired, which is known as the conference agreement. The usual solutions include community service, repairing damage to property, an apology, personal repayment or perhaps counselling and various forms of treatment.

Restorative justice vastly differs from the more traditional forms of justice, which focused on punishing offenders for committing the crimes. The process helps victims through the ability to discuss their experience and stress the fact that they are victims within the criminal justice system, this not only boosts confidence, but also aids in the process for offenders to make amends. Studies have even proven that the process reduces post-traumatic stress disorder for victims and deters offenders from future crime. This process however is not easy as it can be very difficult for offenders to face their actions and apologize.

Nonetheless, the process has witnessed an immense amount of positive feedback from the victims and there are many elements which positively impact the victims once the process has finished. Therefore, the process as a whole appears to be a very contemporary process that truly seems to grasp the true nature of crime within a social setting in today’s world. This approach is further favorable as it recognizes that offenders themselves may have suffered harm and have then committed crimes as a result of their own upbringing or experiences. The emphasis on healing this process provides is fundamental to victims and the offender and the rehabilitation of offenders and the reintegration into community are all essential elements in this process. The idea of re-integration as a sort of deterrence can logically have many positive implications. Nevertheless, the choice of whether to result to this process rests with the victim and the offender and because of its far-reaching implications such a choice is never easy to make.

About the Author

Lina Petrovska

Lina Petrovska

Student of LLB Honours at the School of Law & Social Justice, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom.

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