Restorative justice: Transforming corrections
Nov 08, 2011
Restorative Justice is a different framework for reducing recidivism and providing public safety. It is not a program. It is a collection of concepts put into action to administer justice as a process that involves the victim, the offender and the community. It does not seek to undermine or mitigate the punitive characteristics of incarceration. Taking responsibility is fundamental and therefore more difficult for the offender. Restorative Justice Principles facilitates changing the offenders’ thinking and raising their level of moral reasoning. It attempts to teach offenders empathy and compassion for human suffering. Both qualities many offenders lack through inadequate childhood socialization, neglect or abuse.
With a Restorative Justice correctional long term direction, the focus is appropriately placed on healing the victim, making whole the community and restoring the offender to a moral place he was or should have been. This model gives offenders a chance to reclaim their lives, to give back and be a positive force in their community.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Restorative Justice embraces some basics concepts.
- The justice process belongs to the community and as such works to prevent crime and promote change by being actively involved in the process.
- The community bears the responsibility to support efforts to reintegrate offenders back into the community and to ensure offenders are afforded the resources and opportunities to make amends.
- To restore victims of crime by allowing them to be active participates in the process.
- Recognizing that offenders themselves have in some way been harmed, their needs, risk factors and life skill competencies must be addressed.
- Offenders bear responsibility to make things as right as possible.
- Offenders bear responsibility to be aggressively active in addressing their own needs.
A Restorative Justice initiative should provide opportunities for all those involved and impacted by a specific crime to participate in its resolution. It will begin to restore all victims and offenders to well functioning, contributing members of the community. Restorative programming will require offenders to work towards repairing the harm they have caused. Many victims of crime find a face to face encounter with their offender extremely therapeutic and provides a sense of closure. Victim Impact Panels and Victim-Offender Mediation bring crime victims and offenders together for this purpose.
....We ourselves are prisoners to a system of incarceration that does little to increase public safety. It is not a cost effective way of addressing criminal behavior. Over 90% of all incarcerated offenders will be released from prison and a significant percentage of those released will reoffend. We are doomed to this system of never ending prison expansion and financial despair unless we change our strategic direction. We must stop thinking of corrections simply as a facility to remove criminal offenders from society. We should collectively develop the holistic approach of Restorative Justice that incarcerates offenders while effectively addressing their propensity to recidivate.
However, organizational change is no easy job. To drive organizational change requires strong and aggressive leadership from correctional administrators. Equal to security concerns, they must prioritize therapeutic programming through Restorative Justice Practices. Realistic vocational training, life skills counseling and cognitive restructuring must be the driving force. This is the fundamental shift in direction for many departments long indoctrinated in the theory of public safety through strict security practices. Restorative Justice is the life line to turn around our broken prison system. It brings all the stakeholders into the process of justice and works to facilitate cognitive change in the offender.
It is not an overnight fix. It is a long term strategy that will succeed if our dedication to be professionally driven is unwavering and commitment to resist political expediency, resolute. Restorative Justice is “What Works” in Corrections.