Meeting Victim, Offender, and Community Needs
Criminality is a phenomenon that has been present since the beginning of human existence. In the recent past, crimes have increased due to economic inequality, lack of opportunity for the underprivileged, racism, violence, and class separation. Punishments such as imprisonment were introduced, hoping that the fears of suffering would eradicate or minimize crime. However, the number of prisoners keeps rising (de Oliveira, 2019). Current data indicates that prison punishment (retributive justice) is neither an effective deterrent nor an effective rehabilitative method. Consequentially, in the past two decades, a movement has emerged that challenges the current justice system that offenders’ punishment is significant to restore justice (Moss et al., 2021). The alternative model-restorative justice regards crime as the conflict that needs to be assigned to their owner: victim, offender, and community to resolve. In practice, all the affected parties are involved in the process. While retributive justice has its function, the restorative justice system is designed to meet the participants’ needs in the most viable way. The analysis will discuss how all the parties are involved in the process, how restorative justice meets the need of these groups and the RJ difference with the current retributive justice system.
Restorative justice practices in the criminal system are based on the premise that crime violates individuals and interpersonal relationships. Therefore, it is necessary to remedy the harm caused by the offender, who must acknowledge their behavior was harmful to others and take action to remedy the harm to the full extent possible. However, in the restorative justice system, the victim and the community do not assume the full responsibility of a ‘victim’ (Kelly, 2021). The system is based on the philosophy that the correction measures to eradicate the crime must meet the need of victims, the community, and the offender in the most optimal manner. The restorative justice process contains an element of lay participation, expressive narrative, and ritual dynamics to enact the correction measures (Moss et al., 2021). Some of the RJ processes include victim-offender mediation, dialogue, conferencing, victim impact panels, peacemaking circles, apology banks, and repairing boards.
The RJ responds to crime by identifying and taking the necessary measures to repair harm, involving all stakeholders, and transforming all the convectional relationships between the community and government in addressing a crime (Moss et al., 2021). The objective of the process is to bring together those most affected by the crime in a non-adversarial manner to encourage offenders’ accountability and meet the needs of the victim to repair harm from the offense. While various restorative justice models are mentioned above, they all share common features that emphasize sanctions, non-adversarial processes, and consensus for decision making. The success of the RJ observes three elements, including encounter, repair, and transform, with each component being discrete and essential (Obi et al., 2018). Together, these elements represent a method to wellbeing and wholeness that the involved parties can experience.
The offender must first acknowledge the harm caused to victims and communities and must be willing to make amends. The offender forms a positive self-identity that replaces negative self-identities and attempts to create healthy social relationships. The victims follow through various phases after victimization. After the crime, victims experience anger and fear and search for an explanation. The RJ allows victims to be directly involved in responding to crime and the effects of their behaviors (Kelly, 2021). The community is involved in the RJ process to meet various needs such as justice, community empowerment, re-establishment of peaceful relationships, a sense of safety and hope, and concrete action to prevent the re-occurrence of similar conflict. The community aims to protect the victim and offender, offer resources and education for the healing process, insist on both parties’ active involvement, and seek systematic sources for recurring conflict.
Unlike the deterrence justice system, the restorative system aims to meet the needs of all the involved parties. The comprehension of crime as conflict is a prevailing motif in RJ. Beyond the procedural aspect of bringing involved parties together in un-dominated dialogue on the consequence of injustice, RJ has a distinctive framework that emphasizes healing than punishing. While in practice, punishment of the offender may be involved, the RJ promotes more constructive and meaningful punishment. These punishments are constructive since they oblige the offender to act for the benefit of the community. RJ offers the victim a viable alternative to solve the crime. Fundamental to the RJ is the dialogue process that allows the offender to accept accountability for their action, offer an apology, and encourage victims implicitly to overcome their resentment and offer forgiveness (Moss et al., 2021). RJ, relative to court processes, tends to meet the community’s needs by reducing crime but with considerable variation between offense types and context.
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Criminal justice systems have the mandate to reduce criminality. Two ways in which CJS achieves its purpose are through deterrence and rehabilitation. If these concepts were effective in practice, society would experience a significant transformation. Nonetheless, as the current data indicates, the number of related crimes remains stable since none of the objectives are fulfilled (Rossner, 2017). Macro application of RJ approaches can reduce the number of crimes. The convectional justice system consists of an impartial jury, availability of evidence, and reliance on text to interpret the law. Nonetheless, since crime is considered a state domain, the crime stakeholders (victims and offenders) have a limited role in presenting and expressing their feelings, asking, and offering apologies. The rigid nature of the deterrence method is unlike restorative justice, where offenses are considered conflicts that belong with the involved parties Obi et al., 2018). Deterrence methods prevent the affected parties from learning and growing through conflicts. The major loser in the deterrence method is society. Most offenders who go through the retribution justice system return to incarceration after several years of release.
Nonetheless, while restorative justice offers an alternative to the court processes, many victims and providers remain suspects of both the concept and practical application of the process. Some fears and concerns arise from experiences, while others are upon perception. If RJ is to effectively meet the involved stakeholders’ needs, their fear and concern must be addressed meaningfully (Rossner, 2017). The RJ must assure victims of considerable constitutional and statutory rights and improved services, which is unlikely in retributive justice. Victims are equal partners with community representatives, justice practitioners, victim service providers, and other professionals. Otherwise, the consequence of the justice system is likely to continue the adversarial opposition to restorative justice.
In sum, the criminal justice system in the US is flawed and ineffective since it fails to fulfill its first and most essential purpose in decreasing criminal rates. The justice system needs to result in positive outcomes. The alternative justice system offers more meaningful and constructive strategies to deal with crime. Unlike retributive justice, restorative justice positively meets all the involved parties’ needs. The restoration justice system meets the victims’ compensation and reparation needs, the offender’s forgiveness and returns to full community membership needs, and the communities’ needs of community justice, community empowerment, and re-establishment of peaceful relationships. The RJ process is marked by lay participation and an opportunity for an expressive narrative to develop. The most optimal objective of the alterative just system is to restore rather than punish.
de Oliveira Morsch, B. (2019). Retribution vs. Restoration: Tendencies of the Criminal Justice System.
Obi, F. C., Okoye, I. E., Ewoh, A. I., & Onwudiwe, I. D. (2018). Restorative justice: Psychological needs of offenders and implications for safety & security. African Social Science Review, 9(1), 3.
Rossner, M. (2017). Restorative justice and victims of crime. Handbook of victims and victimology,
Maffly-Kipp, J., Rivera, G. N., Schlegel, R. J., & Vess, M. (2021). The Effect of True Self-Attributions on the Endorsement of Retributive and Restorative Justice. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 01461672211027473.
Kelly, E. I. (2021). From retributive to restorative justice. Criminal Law and Philosophy, 15(2), 237-247.
Moss, S. A., Lee, E., Berman, A., & Rung, D. (2019). When do people value rehabilitation and restorative justice over the punishment of offenders?. Victims & Offenders, 14(1), 32-51.