- Showing 1 posts filed under: Politics [–], Policy [–], Story [–] published between May 01, 2010 and May 31, 2010 [Show all]
What if ... restorative justice?
Restorative justice (RJ) programs may serve as an effective alternative for handling many criminal offences. RJ originated in indigenous communities where conflicts between individuals were handled in a holistic and collaborative manner, instead of a top-down, linear approach. According to this method, crimes are interpreted as unhealthy actions and symptoms of unhealthy relationships. Thus, group arbitration attempted to heal.
Today, RJ programs come in many different shapes and sizes, all paying much deference to the impact a criminal offense makes upon victims and the larger community. RJ offers a mediation platform that allows the offender, victim, community members, and government actors a role in arbitrating the conflict.
Victims are given the chance to articulate to offenders the ways in
which they were hurt by the crime. This is an opportunity that they
often are not afforded in our current court process, and one reason why
the majority of victims find the current justice system unsatisfactory.
After hearing the victim, offenders have to acknowledge the harm they
have caused; they cannot escape the impact they have made on victims,
and thus are unable to shift the guilt away. Offenders are able to
describe their motivations for offending as well as the circumstances
surrounding their offense.
By giving community members a role in arbitration, the community is
able to establish boundaries while also offering support. The community
is also made aware of the way in which it might have failed both the
victim and offender in allowing the conflict to take place. When
community members are active in the adjudication process, offenders face
less stigma and have a better chance reintegrating.
After victims, offenders and community members have been given the chance to describe what the offense meant to them, the dialogue focuses on restitution. The offender is made responsible for restoring the victim to the best of their abilities. Obviously, this means something different for every crime and every victim.