How Does Restorative Justice Work?
October 26th, 2017
Restorative justice is a system where volunteers and professionals help offenders rehabilitate, and sometimes to reconcile with their victims, so they can re-establish a connection with society and their community. By creating programs for offenders that focus on transforming their mind, body, and emotions for the better, restorative justice aims to help offenders to leave behind destructive patterns of behavior, and to restore balance and peace in the community.
What does restorative justice focus on?
To restorative justice, a crime is not just about broken laws, but broken lives. Crime harms people – not only victims, but offenders as well – causing huge damage to their relationships, and the community around them. This means that simple punishment isn’t enough to solve the problem; any particular crime is the product of a complex web of causes, and simply giving fair punishment doesn’t do anything to address those causes. By getting to the root of the problem and attempting to transform the persons responsible for the crimes, another benefit of restorative justice is that it seeks to right not only the immediate wrongs, but the wrongs that made the crime possible in the first place.
What are the principles involved in restorative justice?
Restorative justice works on three important concepts. The first is that it’s important to repair the harm that crime causes to justice. Crime needs to be punished; justice needs to be restored. But the second is acknowledging that crime causes broken relationships, in a way which can lead to further crime in the future; and so reconciliation is necessary between victims and criminals. The third principle is related to this: enabling offenders to transform their lives for the better, restoring the balance in relationships and communities, and making it less likely that they will reoffend.
How does restorative justice work?
Restorative justice focuses on viewing offenders as individuals who can make amends, transform into better people, reconcile with their victims, and eventually re-establish a functional and working relationship with friends, family, and their society at in general. This is a complicated process, and some of the techniques used are:
- Open discussion. When offenders meet with their victims, they are given a chance to understand the exact ways in which their actions have harmed them. By openly discussing the impact of a crime, offenders are required not only to suffer for their crimes, but to understand how others have suffered too.
- Group activities. Restorative justice programs also include activities where offenders, their victims, and support groups (if they’re available), engage in a number of activities together. This helps promote a sense of belonging and understanding.
- Legal awareness. A number of offenders (often young offenders, or juveniles) are unaware of the legal repercussions of their crimes. Restorative justice programs might try to help them understand the law, so they know what consequences their actions can have.
- Educational programs. Promoting academic awareness plays a part in most restorative justice programs, particularly when it comes to juvenile offenders. Youth are exposed to regular school programs, and receive aid with schoolwork. As an investment of time in their lives, this can be a powerful sign that they are worth investing in; leading them to reconsider their lives and choose a different path.
Ultimately, the core of any restorative justice program benefits is to promote healing, both for the victim and the offender. It makes offenders take account of their actions, and helps victims to look past a trauma and start the process of healing. Eventually, both the wrongdoer and the wronged can find it possible to make their way back to normal, everyday life; and that’s what restorative justice is all about.