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Essential Elements of Restorative Justice

Question:

Evaluate the Claim That Restorative Justice Practices Are Beneficial For Victims of Crime and Offenders.

The concept of restorative justice is considered as an innovative approach to criminal justice. It is an alternative to the traditional criminal process followed in courts as restorative justice generally include meeting of the offenders and the victims and their respective families. The participants come to an agreement for the accused with a view to repair the damage he caused to the victim.  In the event a party declines to attend such face-to-face meetings, there are scopes to bring out the restorative outcome of repairing the harm caused to the victim by the offender. In other words, restorative justice emphasizes on refurbishing the harm caused by the offender to the victim. It can be achieved through cooperative processes that include all the actors in the criminal justice system.

Restorative justice is beneficial for all the fundamental actors within the criminal justice system. Firstly, it provides the offender with an opportunity to accept his/her responsibility for the harm he/she caused to the victim, thus, rehabilitating. Secondly, it is advantageous for the state as well by diverting cases away from the criminal justice system that is already over-burdened with cases.  Lastly, it gives a chance to the victims to play a significant role in dealing with the crime that has been against him/her by the accused/offender. It is always beneficial for the victims, offenders and the affected members of the society to be involved in responding to the crime, as they are vital to the criminal justice process. This restorative process of including all the parties to the criminal justice system through face-to-face meetings is an influential way to address not only the physical injuries but also the psychological, relational and social injuries as well.


The essential concepts included in the restorative justice are to understand the needs of the offenders and victims and to ensure that justice is administered to all the actors in the criminal justice system. Restorative justice is a an alternative approach to the traditional court’s process. This approach aims at repairing the damage caused by the accused or the offender which lacks in the traditional criminal justice system. The essay shall discuss how restorative justice, in all its sense, is a commendable effort to humanize the justice system.

The essay shall include an introduction, body and conclusion where the introduction part shall entail brief concept of the topic restorative justice and its essential elements. In the body of the essay, the essential elements shall be discussed elaborately. Further, it shall include the impact of restorative justice and shall provide examples to establish the claim that it is beneficial for both offenders and victims. The conclusion shall include summary of the points discussed in the entire essay to establish that restorative justice is a beneficial to the victims, offenders and the affected members of the community.

ESSAY

Traditional Criminal Justice Sanctions

The notion of restorative justice is a new movement in the world of criminology and victimology. Given the fact that crimes causes injuries to communities and people, restorative justice repair such injuries and allows the parties to such crime to take part in that process. The restorative justice programs permit the offenders, victims and the other affected members to play a significant role in responding to the crimes (Bouffard et al. 2017). These actors become vital to the criminal justice process with the support from the legal professionals and the government. They act as facilitators to such system that aims at ensuring the accountability of the offender, reparation of the victims and complete participation of the affected members of the community. This process involves face-to-face meeting that are held between the offenders, victims and the affected community members where the offender admits his/her offence and takes full responsibility for the injuries caused to victims and the affected community members. The essay will further discuss about the essential elements involved in the restorative justice process that it, the victims, offenders and the affected community members. It shall further critically analyze the intended benefits of restorative justice for victims. In conclusion, a brief summary shall be provided establishing that restorative justice is a viable alternative under certain circumstances to the traditional criminal justice system.


The emergence of the notion of restorative justice had taken place due to two broad and essential trends (Larsen 2014). The first trend is the overall inclination towards an alternative dispute resolution method, which shall be cheaper, more hospitable than an expensive, tome-consuming and psychologically strenuous difficult system that is based on formal adjudication and litigation. The second trends includes the persisting dissatisfaction with the traditional criminal justice system that is not only burdensome and costly but also fails to deter crime, rehabilitate offenders, and promote effective and just punishment to administer justice to the affected victims.

Restorative justice satisfies both the aspects of politics- conservatives and the liberal aspect. From the conservative aspect, it focuses on the accountability of the offenders, saving governmental expenses and empowerment of the victims. From the liberal aspect, it focuses on the welfare of all the parties and the likelihood for creating and healing the peace. This establishes the reason why several victimologists, criminologists have accepted restorative justice on the ground that it involves benefits for victims, offenders and the State in one single process.

Intended Benefits of Restorative Justice for Victims and Offenders

Restorative justice is a form of justice theory that emphasizes on repairing the harm that is caused to the victim by the criminal behavior. The repairing is achieved through cooperative processes, which includes all the stakeholders or the actors of the criminal justice system that is, the offenders, victims and the affected community members (Crawford and Newburn 2013). As discussed earlier, restorative justice process involves face-to-face-meetings between the victims, offender and the affected members of the community. The meetings between the victims, offenders and the members of the affected community are vital to address the relational aspect of crime and justice. Three acceptable methods characterize restorative justice- victim offender mediation, peacemaking or sentencing circles and Family or Community group conferencing.

Victim offender mediation is a process that allows an interested victim to meet the offender in a structured and secured setting, engaging in a discussion about the crime committed and such discussion shall be held through the assistance of a trained mediator. The objective of this process is to permit the victims to meet the offenders voluntarily and inform them about the impact of crime on the victim for the offender to take the responsibility for such harm (Hipple et al. 2016). The offender and victims are provided with an opportunity to develop a plan for addressing the harm.

Family or Community Group Conferencing is a process where the offender, victim, friends and family are brought together to address the consequences of crime. The objective of such conferencing process includes providing the victim with an opportunity to respond to the crime and permitting the support system of the offenders to amend and re-shape future behavior, attempting to permit the victims and the offender to associate with the community support. Peacemaking or Sentencing Circles is a process that is designed to develop agreement among the community members, victims, offenders, judges, defense counsel, police and court workers with respect to appropriate sentencing plan that purports to address the concerns of all the interested parties. The main objective of this process is to address all the injuries of all the affected parties and provide the offender to make amendments and enable the victim and the affected community members with the opportunity to voice their concern in resolving the causes of criminal behavior exhibited by the offender.


The three restorative justice processes ultimately determine the procedure to repair the harm caused by the crimes committed by the offender against the victim. In order to execute the restorative justice process to respond to crimes, two traditional criminal justice sanctions community service and restitution (Clamp 2016). Restitution is the payment of a sum of money that is paid by an offender to compensate the victim for the financial losses caused by the crime. It is a justified restorative method of holding offenders responsible for the crimes committed by them and a method for repairing the injury caused to the victim. It either may be determined in the course of circles and conferencing or may be ordered by a judge. Community service is work that is carried out for the benefit of the community by the offenders. It is a justifiable restorative justice process used to address the harm caused to the victim and its impact on the community. This process can be used as a means to rehabilitate the offender.

Conclusion

In regards to the development of restorative justice, there have been growing concerns about the fact whether the concept has been effective at deterring crimes. Restorative justice being a tertiary form of crime deterrence measure aims at deterring the act of offending instead of prohibiting primary prevention. Hence, if a restorative justice measure is effective, it should produce lower rates of recidivism. In a recent Australian study conducted by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has been demonstrating that a large scale youth justice conferencing initiative is capable of reducing 15-20% re-offending in several offences.

According to Braithwaite (2016), from the perspective of the victim, restorative justice is essential as it allows the victim to participate in the criminal justice process giving them an opportunity to overcome their fear and voice their opinion in redressing the harms caused by the offender. The participation of the victim in giving their input enables the offender to understand the impact of the crime committed by them and the harm resulted from such harm. This fact is evident from the applicability of the restorative justice options throughout Australia by the end of 2013. Such options include conferencing for young offenders in all Australian territories and state, conferencing adult offenders available in South Australia and NSW, victim-offender mediation available in Australian jurisdictions. This review establishes that a body of research establishes that restorative justice may be more effective for offenders that are more creative and more serious offenders. This process is more-effective than pre-sentence. According to Zehr  (2015), the review has discovered other advantages that results from the Restorative Justice Programs such as offender accountability, victim satisfaction and enhanced compliance with variety of orders.

From the perspective of the offender, restorative justice process not only reduces reoffending, as there is an involvement of informal social controls through the inclusion of supporters, family and community representatives. This is because informal social control is believed to influence offending. The process of conferencing stigmatizes the offenders but unlike the traditional court processes, which aim at reinforcing the criminal behavior, it aims at stigmatizing the criminal conduct and not the individual. Several studies have revealed that both the victims and offender agrees that the restorative justice procedures are fairer and more beneficial than the court proceedings.

In the opinion of Johnstone (2013), although the restorative justice process promotes strengthen and healing the social bonds which builds the foundation of our communities. However, most victims do not take part in any formal process for resolving the issues related to victimization. Similar to the traditional criminal justice system, several victims may not report the crime to the police or the police may not find the offender. The extent to which the restorative justice process depends, the victims may suffer from similar restrictions and several victims may not avail the benefits of the restorative justice process.


Unlike the traditional criminal justice system, Strang (2017) states that the restorative justice process often fail to address several needs of victims. Individual offenders often fail to meet the needs of the victims or small communities as they can only take responsibility for the crimes committed by them and the harm caused to the victim. The injuries sustained by the offender can change the life of the victim forever and reparation seems to be less useful with respect to the continuing relationship with the community or an offender. Cartwright (2016) states that so long the needs of the victims are addressed with the resources of the communities and the offenders, the needs of the victims shall remain to be unsatisfying.

On the other hand, the concept of restorative justice includes empathy, restitution, accountability and mutual understanding as the essential principles of restorative justice. This process restores the individual dignity. The benefits that arise from the restorative justice process include greater probability of obtaining compensation, which would take the form of financial redress for the victim apart from the participation of the victims in the criminal justice process. The process involves private sessions that are confidential in nature, which enables both the offender and the victim, in particular, to participate in the criminal justice system. The system is considered as cost effective and is vital for community benefits. There is a greater satisfaction for and enhanced confidence with the criminal justice system.

From the above discussion, it can be inferred that substituting the traditional concept of criminal justice with the concept of restorative justice will signify the commencement of a new era for the victims affected from the crimes committed by the offender. Although there is no precise answer provided for the question relating to the recent trend towards restorative justice is negative or affirmative from the perspective of both the offender and the victims, the truth of which, probably lies somewhere in the middle. Nevertheless, the procedure of the restorative justice clearly establishes the fact it aims at ensuring that the offender takes responsibility of his/her act and repair the harm caused to the victim and the other affected members of the community. The opportunity of the victims to participate in the process satisfies their minds, as they not only get to overcome their fear of social stigmatization, owing to the confidential sessions, but they also get to inform the offenders of the impact of such crime.

The offenders, especially the young offenders, get opportunities to acknowledge accountability of the crime and apologies, remorse and empathize with the victim. Under the traditional court system, the offenders merely get a chance to actually take full responsibility of the crime and empathize with the victims. Crime is not a depersonalized concept instead, it is perceived as an experience between the individuals amidst the community. All the three essential actors of the criminal justice process, offender, victim and community must recognize how the commission of crime has affected each of them. Hence, it is their responsibilities to make necessary attempts to recreate right relationships and rebuild social ties

Reference List

Bouffard, J., Cooper, M. and Bergseth, K., 2017. The effectiveness of various restorative justice interventions on recidivism outcomes among juvenile offenders. Youth Violence and Juvenile Jus

Braithwaite, J.B., 2016. Restorative Justice and Responsive Regulation: The Question of Evidence.

Cartwright, J., 2016. Navigating the Accountability and Wellbeing Nexus: Practitioners' Experiences of Restorative Justice Processes with Youth Violent Offenders (Doctoral dissertation, University of Auckland).

Clamp, K. ed., 2016. Restorative justice in transitional settings. Routledge.

Crawford, A. and Newburn, T., 2013. Youth offending and restorative justice. Routledge.

Hipple, N.K., Duwe, G. and Northcutt Bohmert, M., 2016. Evaluating Restorative Justice Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA): Can Social Support Overcome Structural Barriers?.

Johnstone, G., 2013. Restorative justice: Ideas, values, debates. Routledge.

Larsen, J.J., 2014. Restorative justice in the Australian criminal justice system. Canberra, Australia: Australian Institute of Criminology.

Sherman, L.W., Strang, H., Mayo-Wilson, E., Woods, D.J. and Ariel, B., 2015. Are restorative justice conferences effective in reducing repeat offending? Findings from a Campbell systematic review. Journal of quantitative criminology, 31(1), pp.1-24.

Strang, H. and Braithwaite, J. eds., 2017. Restorative justice: Philosophy to practice. Routledge.

Strang, H., 2017. Restorative Justice Conferencing (RJC) Using Face-to-Face Meetings of Offenders and Victims: Effects on Offender Recidivism and Victim Satisfaction: A Systematic Review. Campbell Systematic Reviews 2013: 12.

Van Ness, D.W. and Strong, K.H., 2014. Restoring justice: An introduction to restorative justice. Routledge.

Ward, T., Fox, K.J. and Garber, M., 2014. Restorative justice, offender rehabilitation and desistance. Restorative Justice, 2(1), pp.24-42.

Zehr, H., 2015. Changing lenses: restorative justice for our times. Harrisonburg: Herald Press.

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