Understanding Restorative Justice and How it Works
We probably all know someone who has been a victim of crime at one point or another. Someone who came home to find their place had been stripped clean by burglars, or someone who has been forced to look down the barrel of a gun in a place that they thought would be safe, or who has been a victim of domestic violence or some other type of assault.
No matter what, once something like these events happen we feel a sense of imbalance and lose our sense of security. In many cases, we report the offense to the authorities who often do not seem interested or inclined to do much to help you get that balance back. The fact is that quite often in our modern society, the focus is more often than not on paying back the society rather than the victim.
A perfect example of this is when someone has been robbed or mugged and the perpetrator is caught, they are sentenced to jail (removed from society as a means of protecting the masses from further injury). This penalty is their evidence that justice has been served. Yet, the victim is rarely compensated for their loss nor are their needs addressed. The perpetrator’s punishment has little to do with the damages that they have caused in the lives of their victims.
However, now there is a new form of justice that seems to be gaining traction; Restorative Justice. Under a system of restorative justice, when harm has been done it naturally creates a certain obligation by the wrongdoer. These new responsibilities must be met in order for balance to be restored. People who have been assaulted need to have a clear path to healing and compensation must be made to put things right again.
This type of justice can only be successful if the perpetrators, victims, and those in positions of authority work together to make it happen. This can include the obvious participants; the police and correctional authorities along with schools, faith-based groups, employers, and any organizations that may be have been affected in someway by the injustice.
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Four Characters of Restorative Justice
There are four unique characteristics of restorative justice.
The Encounter: Bringing all those involved together to discuss the offense and the impact it may have had each of them. It should expose every facet of the injustice and the damage it’s caused.
The Amends: Laying out the steps needed to bring everything back into balance once again.
The Reintegration: Taking the steps needed to bring about justice, restoring victims to the original state and to help the wrongdoer to become a contributing member of society.
Inclusion: The final step is to provide opportunities for all parties involved to come to a resolution.
While it may be simple to outline these particular steps there is a lot at stake when it comes to implementing restorative justice. For one thing, all parties involved must become willing participants. Victims cannot refuse to speak out on their behalf, the wrongdoer must be able to recognize his or her role in causing the imbalance, and the authorities that are involved need to be ready to enforce the plans laid out for restoration.
The steps needed require more than just a desire to bring things into balance. There are definite steps that need to be taken for it to work. Implementing actions like meditation, conferencing, counseling, group discussions, warning systems, and more are necessary for the success of restorative justice.
The Restorative Justice movement is definitely making a mark on our society. If implemented effectively, it will change the way we view our own laws, new terms will be incorporated into our language and people will have to learn more about the principles behind the laws rather than the laws themselves to guide them in their decisions. For example, the law may state that robbery is illegal so rather than the justice system viewing it as a crime against society, it is really a law designed to protect an individual from being stripped of his possessions and what he has worked for. With that thought in mind, the penalty for such a crime will have to include the restoration of possessions to the victim.
Everyone will not agree on what will qualify as Restorative Justice in every case.
There is a lot to learn and to understand about this type of law enforcement. Whether it not it will prove to be effective in bringing about justice remains to be seen.