Victims needs are more adequately met through the restorative justice process.
Published 24 Feb 2017
This paper seeks to analyze and discuss to assertion that victims’ needs are more adequately met through the restorative justice process. Restorative justice is a theory of criminal justice that considers crime as an act against another individual or community rather than the state, thus the victim is being made to play a major role in the process and for which he or she may receive some type of restitution from the offender (McCold, P.,n.d., Minister of Justice,1996).
As distinguished from retributive justice, restorative justice takes on those who are victims of wrongdoings or crimes committed against them and those who harmed them including the affected communities to find a fair set solutions that perhaps repair, reconcile and rebuild broken relationships. This kind of justice has the element of taking responsibility (Prison Fellowship International, 2007) for ones action and there seems of to be acknowledgement of human frailty which could commit mistakes yet justice may still be served by the participation of the affected parties. When one takes responsibility for one’s action, the victims will be feel a deeper sense of justice as this could imply a less work for legalism and more of humanism that man is free and such violation of freedom is explainable.
At present the term restorative justice may even encompass a movement to have peaceful means in resolving to harm committed against persons such as the way violations of legal and human rights even in the international tribunals are resolved or as simple as procedures that introduce innovation in a given criminal justice system of a nations, schools, and even communities. What is important is that under the restorative justice as principle, there is an attempt to build partnerships and to reestablish mutual responsibility for constructive responses to bad behavior within our communities. It has therefore the objective of a balanced approach to address both the needs of the victim, wrongdoer and community through processes with the belief that this will preserve the safety and dignity of all (Suffolk University, College of Arts & Sciences, and Center for Restorative Justice).
On the basis of the primacy of community life, this paper argues for the advantage of restorative justice in many respects over that of retributive justice except for those that may not be applicable on the basis of common sense. Victims and their families normally ask the question why such wrong things are committed upon their person, property or liberty on the grounds that psychological reason may help them heal from the harm that was committed against. There is a bible verse that says the truth will set you free. This paper would like to adopt the principle behind that bible verse that knowing that truth about every situation makes it easier for the mind to accept eventually and that would help the victims and their families to move on to the next steps or levels of their lives. Even in ordinary personal encounter between a person and from a person from whom a responsibility can be demanded, the act of contrition of admission that something was committed wrongly is admission of our humanity and the suffering of the necessary consequence of such unfortunate action. In the same way, a parent would be more forgiving if his or her child will accept responsibility for his or her action. Such acceptance could even melt the heart of such parent. If viewed in larger group of people, such admission of guilt by the offender when accepted by the victim could move easier the heart of the victim of her or his family to forgive and then move on in life.
Thus it cold be observed the in criminal cases, victims may express their deepest emotions be they anger or otherwise against the offenders and for the parties belonging to the offender to admit about the wrongness of the act committed. Such act may not be financial in compensation or reward to the families of the victim but the mere opportunity to express the feeling and emotions as to demonstrate the full impact of the crime upon their lives is for them one of better means to justice. The other option is to allow retributive justice to take its course, which may not result to desires effect because the offending party may deny strongly what may have been admitted personally because of the fear that state may be inhuman in imposing punishment of the crime. In addition, under the restorative justice, the victims and or his or families may have the chance to receive answers to any persistent questions about the incident that would help them understand and why the offender has may have done the same thing. At this juncture, it may even argue that restorative justice is not only beneficial to the offended but also to the offender. It may be noted that most crimes at present have their personal sides. While at present crimes are committed against the state, it is also said that every person criminally liable is also civilly liable. What the law has done is to approximate the psychological harm committed upon the victim by monetary compensation as a result of the act. But it may neglected the fact that humans have feelings and emotions that may not be paid in money but only through the honest admission of the offender that such act was committed for reasons that may made acceptable to other party.
By giving therefore the chance to the offended party, he or she may even tell the whole truth privately to heart’s content of the families of the victims. This writer has personally witnessed a crime of killing where the offender was the boss of administrator of a building who has served his boss for more than 40 years of his life. Since the victim as killed, his families could express lingering questions why such on earth could such killing have happened when the man who was the victim may have given the best of lifetime to the boss. The issue of loyalty was there and ordinary people would like to think that killing that person should be the last thing to happen. When the offender was interviewed in the television, he stated that he wanted to tell the families of victim privately what really transpired during the night that the event happened but at that that moment of interview the families of the victim were furious against the offender since the crimes was just committed within the weak. From the analysis of legal minds, it could be inferred that the offender is taking the position of not telling everything to the public because it may jeopardize his defense theory which was ‘self-defense’. But the main point of the story is that due to the strained relation that the offender might have felt he has committed against the victim and his families, he was willing to tell the complete story for the killing. From the psychological point of view, the offender, after admitting of the killing has the heart to tell to victims privately about the truth of the killing but which he cannot tell in public.
As could be gleaned from circumstance of the story, the negotiations using restorative justice should be held confidential as this could repair the relationships of the parties without risks of making public what they wanted to keep private. The other option therefore seems to be uncertain when the case goes to trial under the principle of retributive justice. Most of the times, trial could be held public and this unnecessarily expose the parties about some secrets that should have been preserved for the repair if not strengthening of their relationships.
Another application of restorative justice that would benefit the victim is in social justice cases, where the poor children are granted the chance to express their future hopes for tangible plans under transition out of state custody under a process they should be led into with their supporters (Walker, L, 2005). Braithwaite, J. (2002) also mentioned about the use of restorative justice in problem solving.
Compensation under restorative justice particularly in criminal cases is not limited to money as it could include community service that may be or service specific to the act committed, self-education to thwart recidivism, and/or expression of remorse. This therefore could involved a wider sense of making the healing which the victim may eventually appreciate as he or she would see that compensation is not only restorative of the personal relationship that was destroyed but also the wider community where the victims and/or his/her families and offender and and/or his/her families will still continued to live together despite the unfortunate event.
It does not mean however that restorative justice should be applied all the time as there could be as case where the offender does not admit or that the victims are not identified such in the case of drug pushing. In the latter case, retributive justice will have to take its course and impose the most fair judgment to keep society moving and growing as a community of rational and just beings. Restorative justice may not be also applied where the offenders are unable to take responsibility for the acts or wrong committed in cases they suffer from serious mental illness or they are ready to an encounter with their victim.
It could be concluded based on the foregoing analysis and discussion that victims needs more adequately met through the restorative justice process. Restorative justice brings satisfaction to the victim to see that offender has felt remorse for wrong things done in addition of course to the civil and criminal liabilities that offender must suffer a consequence. Justice to the victim is not only seeing the offender in prison but that person to realize that what he or she has done is wrong. This would in effect give assurance to the victims and his/her family’s assurance that such wrong may not at least be repeated.
- Braithwaite, J., Restorative Justice and Responsive Regulation, 2002.
- McCold, P. (n.d.) Restorative Justice: The Role Of The Community,
- Minister of Justice (1996) Chapter 2 : Defining Restorative Justice,
- Prison Fellowship International, Pelikan, (2007 ) Christa. On Restorative Justice,
- Suffolk University, College of Arts & Sciences, Centre for Restorative Justice,
- Walker, L., E Makua Ana Youth Circles: A Transition Planning Process for Youth Exiting Foster Care, 2005, VOMA Connections No. 21.