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The approach of restorative justice in criminal justice

As directed in this assignment, I had a discussion on the topic of restorative justice with a fellow classmate, thereby exchanging thoughts and ideas on the same and knowing whether it is important to him. I have tried my best to gather substantive feedback on the topic of restorative justice and certain concerns attached to it.

In discussing about our understanding of the concept of restorative justice, we both have agreed to the point that it is a new approach to justice that strives to mend the harm that has been done by a particular crime. It is an attempt to bring the victim and the offender together, thereby establishing a bridge between the two, in order to repair the harm caused to the victim to the maximum possible extent (Walgrave 2019). However, my fellow classmate begged to differ in terms of the applicability and useability of the concept; he clearly mentioned that he has no faith on this concept of criminal justice method, for he sternly believes that this approach neither lower the rate of crime, nor does it do any good to the victims who have been severely wronged by the offenders, like in case of a criminal offence or rape or murder.

My colleague, close to my age bracket, has laid down his perspective on the topic of restorative approach to criminal justice, which is not affirmative in regard to the application of the approach. He believes that this approach to criminal justice does not lower the rate of crime in any given society, as could be seen from the rate of incarceration and rate of recidivism in the past couple of years. A criminal justice approach which does not help in reducing the crime rate in a society is of no help ton the members of such society. in addition, he mentioned that there is no substantial evidence as to the changes that this approach has brought to change the psychological issues often faced by the victims like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. He raised the question as to exactly what does this approach do, other than putting a “balm” to the wounds of the injured, that is, the victim. What good does it do? Can it capable of removing all sort of bad feelings that the victims might grow towards the offenders? Would not the victims want the offenders to be punished? Would this approach ensure a lowered crime rate in the society?

The answer is negative to all these questions, for restorative approach to criminal justice does not do any such things, as informed by my friend here. It only provides opportunity to the offenders to communicate with the victims and thereby address the different needs that such victims may have for suffering through the particular acts of crime and their repercussion that they had to go through. He mentioned that he sees the process as even more traumatic for the victims as they might feel terrible to meet their offenders face to face or virtually again, someone who has wronged them, thereby feel vulnerable and miserable all over again. Rather than seeing and communicating with them, anyone would want their offender to be behind the bars, enduring the same intensity of pain that they may have gone through when they were wronged by such offender. Thus, he does not see restorative justice as an effective approach to criminal justice or a method that could bring change in addressing the consequences of criminal offence and its impact endured by the victims.  

To my surprise, I was not at all ready for such stern and negative belief regarding the ever-so-evolving concept of restorative approach to criminal justice. As agreed before, it is certainly an approach that strives to mend the harm that has been done by a particular crime, thereby bringing the offender and the victim together, asking them to communicate and address the gaps that have arisen due to the commission of such criminal offence upon the victim. Until now, most other criminal justice approaches either strived to penalise the criminal or tactfully rehabilitate them (Maglione 2021). But none of them has ever strived to repair the wound that has been created on the minds of the victims which could only be mended by the ones who have wronged them.  I am certainly not talking but a heartfelt apology, but something some serious to fill the gap that the criminal offence has brought in the victim’s life. Through this process, the victims are made to seek direct accountability, thereby discussing the appropriate reparation agreed by the victim, which would certainly make them feel even to some extent, by having secured some kind of benefit from the offender or in other way, having caused some kind of loss to him who has done the same to the victim (Maglione 2019).

Through this approach, I would like to inform my friend here, we would be able to strength the community and the individual victims, thereby preventing further harms to be committed upon people. The offenders would be put in such a position in terms of understanding the agony of the victims and thereby compensating him or her that a stark change could be seen in criminal psychology, in the longer run (Walgrave et al. 2021).

To conclude, it is undeniable that restorative form of justice is the new way to seek criminal justice in today’s world where the old forms of punishment are severely looked down upon, even though they have proved to be effective in lowering the crime rate in a society. Nevertheless, the perspective about mending what is broken, that is, doing something which is directly beneficial to the victims is a new approach and is very much in consideration as a new and improved method to criminal justice. Debates on the effectiveness of restorative justice, especially in terms of benefitting victims who have suffered severe losses like rape or murder of near ones is still doubtful and in discussion.

References

Maglione, G., 2019. The political rationality of restorative justice. Theoretical Criminology, 23(4), pp.545-562.

Maglione, G., 2021. Restorative justice, crime victims and penal welfarism. Mapping and contextualising restorative justice policy in Scotland. Social & Legal Studies, 30(5), pp.745-767.

Walgrave, L., 2019. Restorative Justice in Severe Times: Threatened or an Opportunity?. New Criminal Law Review, 22(4), pp.618-644.

Walgrave, L., Ward, T. and Zinsstag, E., 2021. When restorative justice meets the Good Lives Model: Contributing to a criminology of trust. European Journal of Criminology, 18(3), pp.444-460.

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