Restorative Justice

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Restorative Justice
Restorative Justice is an alternative to the traditional system. Even though restorative justice will never replace the traditional system, it has a balanced focus on the person harmed, the person causing the harm and the affected community, rather than just the crime through the eyes of the law. Restorative Justice is always voluntary for the victims, and the offenders have to be willing to cooperate and they have to want to do this. Restorative Justice is a forward-looking, preventive way of understanding crime in its social context. (Dr. Tom Cavanagh; Garder Emily)

Restorative Justice is often done in a circle, dealing with persons between the ages of 18 and 24; it involves a mediator, the victim, the offender, and the community members. It challenges everyone to look at the root causes of the crime, and recognizes that the offender(s) themselves have often suffered harm. Thus making everyone realize that crime violates people and relationships, and the justice part of it all identifies the needs and obligations of the victim, offender, and community. Therefore, the community must take some responsibility for the conditions that contribute to the crime, and help to promote healing by focusing on the present and the future. (Julie People, Lily Trimboli)

In the traditional system, it is done in the courts, where the actions in court are all directed at the offender and the victim is ignored, because they are looking at the crime through the eyes of the state and its laws. So instead of repairing the harm done, the offender just gets a punishment like jail time, or imprisonment, etc. The justice here in the traditional system mainly focuses on establishing guilt, by locking in on past behavior and the question “did he or she do it?” Also, in the traditional system, the community is sidelined and is represented by the state. (Grader, Emily) In restorative justice community members are a big part because they tie into the circle with the victim and the offender, they may not have been involved at all in the crime, but they are a part of that community. With the community member not being a part of the crime, they may have a different outlook on certain circumstances, and they can offer different feedback to try to help everyone understand. So community members are like a second mediator, if they chose to help that way. The victim of the crime does not have to be in the circle or even to attend the sessions; it is totally voluntary for them.

There are three main reasons why the victims of the crimes, or conflicts, want to be a part of restorative justice. For one, they want acknowledgement of the harm that was done to them and they want to talk about it out loud. Secondly, the victim wants to be heard, which means that they want empathy and understanding of how they feel. Third, they want accountability and responsibility; they want the offenders to take credit for what they did. This third part is where restoration comes in, and the stigma of the crime is removable, and in the traditional system it is not. The victim finally gets the closure that they have been wanting and they feel fulfilled.

Community members are usually chosen on their willingness to participate, and their experience with the offender(s) involved. For example, if you have a native kid, then there would be at least one community member, not in relation to the offender, in that circle. This way, hopefully the community member can understand where the offender(s) is coming from and can help everyone, even the offender, to better understand what happened, and maybe why. A community member is never there for an “excuse”, just to help everyone understand more, if there is a “history” with the offender; like the father steals all the time so it is the only way the offender has learned, etc.

In a circle, you use a “talking piece”, like a rock, or a small ball, a pen, etc. This “talking...
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