Restorative justice and the challenge of prison reform
Mar 25, 2011
Crucially, prisoners have to learn to accept responsibility for the harm their criminal activities have caused to individual victims, family and neighbourhood. This largely transformative component is implemented at the beginning of any given prison sentence and is maintained throughout the term of custody.
....Wherever practical and possible, prisoners are made responsible for any financial compensation owed to victims. To this end, a restoration fund may be established and prisoners able to earn money in order to pay victim compensation. This encourages a degree of responsibility in prisoners whilst providing reparation for victims.
In the early stages of transforming towards a restorative prison, victims and community are provided with information about restorative justice practices and ‘the situation of imprisoned offenders and what is likely at the end of their sentences’. Victims of crime support groups are encouraged to participate throughout the introduction of restorative practices in prisons, beginning with an overview of the arrest of an offender, through the investigation process, the court process to incarceration in a restorative prison. For the restorative prison to operate effectively all of the restorative practices should be utilised in a culturally appropriate way, one that reflects the philosophy of reducing harm, generating goodwill and reflecting integrity.
Any such transformation requires clear vision and political fortitude from relevant Governments. Noting that the prison system does not serve either victims or the community effectively, especially during a ‘tough on crime’ or ‘zero tolerance’ debate can be political suicide. Whilst the media and Governments know that prisons are economically unaffordable, reproduce criminality and come with tremendous social costs, transforming them to become effective, transparent and displaying integrity requires courage.
The restorative and therapeutic prison model delivers a more effective and pro-social system, which satisfies most community concerns with regard to the workings of the complete criminal justice system.