Restorative justice by definition in the book is “a sentencing model that builds on restitution and community participation in an attempt to make the victim feel “whole again” (Criminal Justice Today p702)”. A more simple way of defining restorative justice is that it’s a way to try to repair the damage done to all parties after a crime is committed or witnessed. Restorative justice was created because everyone suffers after a crime: the victims, offenders, and community so the point was to have less people suffering by offering rehab-like programs.
Restorative justice programs enable the victim, the offender and affected members of the community to be directly involved in responding to the crime. There are a few different programs used to implement restorative justice that can help everyone involved better cope with the crime. One method is victim-offender mediation, which means getting both of them together in with a counselor to let the victim talk about the crime, how it has affected them, and what they need to make things right.
The results of these type of programs is that there is a higher rate of satisfaction between victims and offenders, less fear among victims, greater chances that the offender will complete a restitution obligation, and fewer offenders committing new offences, than among those who went through the normal court process. Another method of restorative justice is family or community group counseling.
In this method you bring everyone that is involved with the crime or has an input on the crime and talk how to address the crime now. By using this method it gives the victim a chance to feel directly involved in the response to the crime and everyone around can see the affect it has had on them. If the offender is present for this meeting then they can also take responsibility for what they did and come up with a plan for restitution.
This method is mainly used in other countries like Australia, North America, and South Africa but the results have been good and left both the victim and offender satisfied. One of the last most common used forms is a peacemaking or sentencing circle. “This is a process designed to develop consensus among community members, victims, victim supporters, offenders, offender supporters, judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, police and court workers on an appropriate sentencing plan that addresses the concerns of all interested parties.
The goals of circles include: promoting healing of all affected parties, giving the offender the opportunity to make amend, giving victims, offenders, family members and communities a voice and shared responsibility in finding constructive resolutions, addressing underlying causes of criminal behavior, and building a sense of community around shared community values (internet source). After all these counseling sessions and mediations the goal is to come to an agreement on what the offender is going to do to offer some sort of amendment for the crime. A few of the more common amendments are: apology, restitution, changed behavior, and generosity. After reading more in depth about restorative justice I think this should be more commonly used in America.
I know we have prosecuting attorneys and victims advocates to ask what outcome the victim would like, but being able to directly tell an offender what they did to you and come up with appropriate restitution plan seems more justifiable than just throwing some one in jail with no real rehabilitation. If these methods have had good results in other countries, then whats the worst that can happen trying them here? Jail or a repeat offence? At least in trying these programs there is a chance the crime won’t happen again and most importantly the victim gets a piece of mind here too.