The criminal justice system is used in most parts if not all the countries in the western world to deal with people who break the law(s) of the country. However, the problem with this system is that it focuses on the offender more than on the victim. First, this justice system, the victim(s) of a particular crime are mainly not involved in the process of seeking justice. They are only involved when it comes to providing testimony about the crime.
This justice system is not concerned on how the crime affected the victims and their families, and their perspective on delivering justice. Even when they are testifying, they undergo cross-examination from the defendants lawyer, and this can be a traumatic process, especially when they are accused of lying or blaming others for what happened to them (Johnstone, 2011). In short, from the victims perspective, they have no control over the legal process and getting the justice that they want. In most cases, the victims interests about the injustice or violations that they were subjected to are not addressed.
During the legal process, the focus is on the offender, and how the public interprets his or her actions. When an offender is found guilty of a certain crime, in most cases, he or she is given a prison sentence that is appropriate for the crime that he or she committed (Braithwaite, 2016). The sentencing will be determined by professionals in the legal system, and it may include: judges, lawyers, various experts (psychiatrists, and doctors). However, when delivering justice, the justice system should be designed in such a way that it views crime as a process that involves more than breaking a certain law.
Crime causes harm to people, relationships and also the community. Therefore, a just response to address a crime that was committed to a certain person must focus on addressing these harms and also the wrongdoing. In this case, the victim needs to fill that the process of seeking justice has helped him or her repair about the crime that was committed. The offender must be willing to accept the role that he or she played in that crime and seek forgiveness, and the process needs to be transformative for the victim and his or her family, and also the offender.
In restorative justice, it takes a different approach from the criminal justice system because it personalizes crime. The victims, offenders and the community are involved in the mediation process to address the harm done, and during this process, the offenders will redeem themselves both in the eyes of the victims and the community. It is an approach that seeks to help the offenders see what they did was wrong and prevent them from conducting future offences. It is important to point out that in restorative justice, the approach that is taken is that crime that has been committed is against an individual (victim) and not in the State.
Definition of Restorative Justice
According to John Braithwaite, restorative justice is a process where all the stakeholders affected by an injustice have an opportunity to discuss how they have been affected by the injustice and to decide what should be done to repair the harm (Braithwaite, 2004). This definition uses this perspective that, because crime hurts the victims and their immediate family (inclusive of friends and relatives), the justice process undertaken then should lead to healing. It involves all the parties that were affected by the injustice meeting and discussing how the harm that was caused by the crime can be repaired in a manner that will satisfy the victim. It also addresses the problems of the offender (look into why the offender participated in the crime, and the steps that can be taken in the future to ensure that the offender does not repeat the crime).
It can also be defined as an approach to problem-solving that is based on the following three concepts:
When a crime occurs, the focus is on the harm conducted on different people and relationships.
When harm has been conducted, it will create various obligations and liabilities.
The best approach to dealing with the crime is to involve the wrongdoers, victims and the community in the healing process.
Importance of the way Restorative Justice is defined
Looking at the way restorative justice has been defined, it shows that in this process of seeking justice, crime is viewed in a much deeper sense other than breaking the law. The definition illustrates that a criminal offence causes harm to people, affects their relationships and also has a negative effect on the community (Crawford & Newburn, 2013). Therefore, when seeking justice for that offence that was committed, it must be conducted in such a way that it addresses these wrongdoings. One of the most appropriate ways of achieving this will be to ensure that all the stakeholders in this crime meet, and discuss the most appropriate resolution that can be undertaken.
In the definition of restorative justice, three things will be achieved:
Crime is seen as a process that causes harm, and therefore for justice to be achieved, it must be done in such a way that it repairs the harm done.
The best or most appropriate way of determining that justice has been conducted or achieved is if the stakeholders meet and decide the process together.
It has to be transformational and lead to fundamental changes for all the stakeholders that are involved in this process.
The Process of Restorative Justice
It is also commonly referred to as victim-offender dialogue, victim-offender conferencing, victim-offender reconciliation or restorative justice dialogue. It is a process that provides an interested victim with the opportunity to meet with his or her offender in a safe and structured setting (Daly, 2015). These meetings normally take place in the presence of a trained mediator, and its purpose is to mainly engage in a discussion of the crime that was committed. The goals of this process is to allow the victims to meet the offenders on a voluntary basis, ensure that the offender knows the impact of the crime on his or her victims and take responsibility for the offence. It also ensures that during this meeting (s), the stakeholders involved can develop a plan to address the harm.
Family or Community Group Conferencing
In this restorative justice process, it involves more people than the VOM. It brings together the victim, the offender, and their families and friends. The families and friends of both parties are involved because they will play a key role in addressing the harm of the crime. The purposes of the conferencing are to provide the victim with the opportunity of being directly involved regarding responding to the crime (Wallis, 2014). It also provides the offender with the opportunity of seeing the impact of his or her behaviors on the victim and taking responsibility for it. The offenders support system (family and friends) will also play a crucial role in making amends for the crime and shaping the offenders future behavior to reduce the chance that the person will be involved in crime again. The conferencing will also allow both the offender and the victim to be able to rely on the community regarding addressing the harms caused by the crime. It is mainly seen as an appropriate system when dealing with cases where the offender is a juvenile. The reason for this is that the support system plays an important role in the juveniles life regarding shaping his or her future behavior and reducing the likelihood that the offender will be involved in crime in the future. The families and friends also act as witnesses and will hold the offender accountable if he or she is involved in crime in the future.
It is a process that is designed to develop a sense of consensus among the victims and their supporters, offenders and their supporters, judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, police and even the court workers in terms of developing or coming up with an appropriate sentencing plan, which addresses the concerns of all the interested parties. The goals of using these circles include: promoting healing for all the affected parties, providing the offender with the opportunity to make amends for the crime that he or she committed, involving all the stakeholders in the process of seeking justice (Suttie, 2015). The other goals that this process helps to address are addressing the underlying causes of the criminal behaviors and ensuring that they build a sense of community that has various community values.
How Restorative Justice Looks Like
Restorative justice is a unique system of dealing with the harm that is caused by a criminal offence. The process involves bringing together both the offenders and the victims of a particular crime and help them to find answers in regards to the effect of the crime. In the case of the victims, it helps them understand why they became a target for a certain crime by being given a valid explanation by the offender. It also allows them to receive some form of apology from the offender. On the other hand, this process makes the offender to be accountable for his or her actions, develop a strategic plan that will help him or her integrate back into the society, and help the community gain confidence in regards to the offender making amends in regards to his or her wrong doing.
The first step of the restorative justice is to approach the offender to ask for his or her consent in participating in this activity. The reason for this is to avoid any possible disappointments on the victims part when he or she accepts to be involved in the process, and the offender refuses. Then the victim will be asked if he or she will consent to participate in this process. The second step is indirect mediation whereby; each group meets with the mediator individually to be prepared in the process (Rossner, Rossner, & Meredith, 2013). During such meetings, they will be asked questions on who they want to participate in the process and the ideal environment where the meetings should take place (where applicable). The next step is the procedural justice where the two parties will meet and communicate with each other about the crime that was committed, why it was committed, the offender providing an apology, and then deliberating on the appropriate reparation about the offence that was committed. As was described earlier, the process can be divided into three practices: victim-offender mediation, family group conferencing and peace-making circles.
Emotional and Relational Processes
The purpose of restorative justice is to promote healing and strengthen the social bonds that are seen as the foundation of building the communities that exist in the society. It is a unique judicial system that is meant to address the needs and interests of the victims (Rossner & Meredith, 2008). Most of the victims do not participate in the traditional judicial processes because they may fail to report the crime, in other cases, the police are unable to find the offenders, and for others, they feel that by sending the offender to prison does not address their needs. However, using the restorative justice approach, the offender who willingly accepts to participate in the crime will need to apologize to the victim for causing any physical, emotional and even financial harm. If the victim feels the apology is genuine and he or she gets to understand why he or she was a target for the crime, the victim may accept to forgive the offender of the crime.
The restorative justice approach also creates a platform for the offenders to take responsibility for the crimes that they committed which led to their victims being harmed. For instance, the Victim Offender Education Group (VOEG) is a program that helps cr...
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