Restorative justice and prisoner reintegration
Sep 19, 2011
The offender had already been in prison for five years. He had been convicted of rape. He and the victim had known each other; they had grown up in the same neighbourhood, he had been friends with the victim’s brother, and the victim’s father had been his teacher at primary school. The case, with his agreement, was referred to mediators by the director of his prison rehabilitation programme. He felt ashamed, and felt he needed the victim to hear him admit the crime, since at trial he had denied his role in the crime, under the guidance of his lawyer, and had in fact blamed the offence on the victim.
Mediators contacted the victim to inform her of the request and let her know about the process – as well as to give her a choice about whether to participate. Before the mediation the victim felt she had rebuilt her life. She had married and was pregnant. Her family had had no opportunity to receive the professional help she had had, and were still deeply angry. But the victim felt she could not overcome her trauma because her father and brother had vowed to take revenge after the offender’s release.
Her husband, who met the victim some time after the crime, felt that mediation offered a chance for him to discuss his feelings as well. The victim realised after the chance of mediation was offered that she wanted acknowledgement from the offender that she had not ‘invented’ the offence.
After individual meetings with victim, family members and offender, mediators set up a group meeting in prison. The victim and her brother did not want to attend this meeting but participated through their father and her husband. The father explained that though he could never forgive the offender, he would no longer be angry if the offender took responsibility for the crime and admitted the harm caused. He explained that his daughter needed the same.
An agreement document as to the facts of what had happened and the effects it had had was drawn up and signed between the participants. The father said he hoped the offender would do more with his future and that the offender’s family would never have to suffer as the victim and her family had.
An evaluation two months later heard from the victim that she felt that she could finally leave the rape behind. Her family members commented that they felt a sense of relief, peace and calm they had not had before. The offender reported similar feelings, and became eligible for release shortly after this case study was written up in 2007.