Restorative and Restitutive Systems of Justice

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What is Restorative Justice ?
Restorative justice is a way of thinking about crime and conflict. It is not a particular practice or type of program, but rather a philosophy, or a set of principles. The United Nations Working Group on Restorative Justice defines it in the following way: a process whereby parties with a stake in a particular offence resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future Restorative justice processes worldwide are premised on the following principles: * holding the offender accountable in a more meaningful way * repairing the harm caused by the offence

* achieving a sense of healing for the victim and the community * reintegrating the offender back into the community
Crime is viewed as a violation of the victim and the community, not a violation of the state. As a result, the offender becomes accountable to the victim and the community, not the state. Restorative justice defines accountability for offenders in terms of taking responsibility for actions, and taking action to repair the harm caused to the victim and community. Restorative justice provides for active participation by the victim, the offender and the community in the process of repairing the fabric of community peace. As the Twin Cities Star Tribune noted in a July, 1993, editorial, "This vision of justice...(is) about making things right instead of lamenting what's wrong, cultivating strength rather than perpetuating failure." Community corrections, which has been a primary component of corrections in Minnesota for many years, encompasses many of the restorative justice principles. Victim services, restitution, community service, face-to-face meetings between victims and offenders and their support systems, victim impact panels, and skill-building classes for offenders are elements of restorative justice. Expanded role for victims

Under restorative justice, crime victims are offered more opportunities to regain personal power. Currently, victims frequently feel left out of their own cases except possibly as witnesses. One of the key developers of restorative justice, criminal justice specialist Howard Zehr, emphasizes that victims have many needs. They need chances to speak their feelings, experience justice, and have the power restored to them that has been taken away by the offender. Restorative justice allows for victim involvement in determining how those needs can best be met. Community participation

The role of the community also changes dramatically under restorative justice. The entire community bears some responsibility for all its members, including the victim and the offender. The community is responsible for supporting and assisting victims, holding offenders accountable, and ensuring opportunities for offenders to make amends. Communities are also responsible for addressing the underlying causes of crime to reduce victimization in the future. Offender's role

Under the existing criminal justice system that concentrates on legal issues and the possibilities of avoiding punishment, offenders are not required to realize the harm they have done. They often are not required to do anything to right the wrong they have committed. Incarceration by itself may be considered a relatively easy sentence compared to the restorative justice approach that holds offenders directly accountable to victims, confronts them with the personal harm they have caused, and requires that they make real amends to the victim and the community. In the existing system, offenders are in a passive role. In a restorative justice system, they become active participants in reparation. Key assumptions

The restorative justice framework is based on the following assumptions: * Crime results in injuries to victims, communities and offenders. * All...
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