Restorative Justice and the Criminal Justice System

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Restorative Justice 1

Restorative Justice and the Criminal Justice System
Jeffrey A. McGhee
Survey of Public Safety Issues, Theory and Concepts

501 West Northern Parkway
Baltimore, Maryland 21210
Telephone: 410-323-7452
Instructor: Kenneth Szymkowiak

Restorative Justice 2
The modern field of restorative justice developed in the 1970’s from case experiments in several communities with a proportionately sizable Mennonite population. Mennonites and other practitioners in Ontario, Canada, and later in Indiana, experimented with victim offender encounters that led to programs in these communities and later became models for programs throughout the world. Restorative justice theory developed initially from these particular efforts [ (Zehr, 2002) ].

The restorative justice movement originally began as an effort to rethink the needs which crimes create, as well as the roles implicit in crimes. Restorative justice advocates were concerned about needs that were not being met in the usual justice process [ (Zehr, 2002) ].

The criminal justice system’s approach to justice has some important strengths. Yet, there is also a growing acknowledgment of this system’s limits and failures. Victims, offenders, and community members often feel that justice does not adequately meet their needs. Justice professionals, who make up the core components, such as: judges, lawyers, prosecutors, probation and parole officers, and prison staff frequently express a sense of frustration as well. Many feel that the process of justice deepens societal wounds and conflicts rather than contributing to healing or peace [ (Zehr, 2002) ].

Interdisciplinary study and research in public safety and restorative justice is very important. Restorative justice at this day in age will not replace the current court system, but it offers an alternative resolution service for people who want to try another approach. For example, some places are offering mediated victim and offender community conferences. These conferences provide facilitators to help victims and offenders seek reconciliation and resolution. Restorative justice seeks alternatives to continue to put more and more people in jail. Restorative justice seeks sentences that make amends to the victim of crime and to the community as a whole [ (Zehr, 2002) ]. Restorative Justice 3

My related feel of study is criminal justice. The criminal justice system is not a perfect system by far. The criminal justice system is concerned about holding offenders accountable, but that means making sure offenders get the punishment they deserve. The restorative justice approach focuses on the harm that has been done to people, individually and as a community. Restorative justice recognizes that crime is wrong and should not occur and also recognizes that after it does, there are dangers and opportunities. Restorative justice has brought an awareness of the limits and negative byproducts of punishment. Beyond that, however, it has argued that punishment is not real accountability. Real accountability involves facing up to what one has done. It means encouraging offenders to understand the impact of their behavior, the harms they have done, and urging them to take steps to put things right as much as possible [ (Zehr, 2002) ]. Restorative justice and the criminal justice system are two systems that have different views. Restorative justice focuses on harm that has been done to people, individually and as a community. It recognizes that crime is wrong and should not occur, and also recognizes that after it does, there are dangers and opportunities [ (Kelly, 2001) ]. The criminal justice system has three core components, police, courts, and corrections. Each core component has a different function in the criminal justice system. The police functions are to enforce specific laws, investigate...
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