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Is Restorative Justice More Appropriate In Dealing With Young Offenders Than Conventional Criminal Justice?

2674 words - 11 pages

This essay aims to make clear the system of restorative justice and its aims towards youth offending, whilst arguing points for and against the current system and whether or not it is more appropriate in terms of dealing with youth offending. It will also define restorative justice as well as defining what is meant by conventional justice. Making clear how and why these two systems came to be a part of youth justice whilst concluding as to which if either is more appropriate in dealing with youth offending behaviour.
“Restorative justice is a process whereby parties with a stake in a specific offence collectively resolve how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future” (Munchie, 2004).

Restorative Justice is a new way of thinking about and responding to crime, especially in relation to youth offending. For the past decade, especially, there has been an increasing interest in new approaches towards criminal justice in general but more so in terms of juvenile delinquency and finding an appropriate form of punishment to escape the labelling of youth delinquency, which involve the community and focus much more on the victim.
Zehr (1990) who is thought to be one of the pioneers leading the argument for restorative justice highlighted three questions presented when taking a restorative approach; what is the nature of the harm resulting from the crime? What needs to be done to make things right or repair the harm? Who is responsible for this repair? He ascertained that ‘crime is fundamentally a violation of people and interpersonal relationships’. He also noted that violations create obligations and liabilities and that restorative justice seeks to heal and put right the wrongs. Restorative justice has become mainstream following the establishment of youth offender panels under the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. There are already existing restorative practices that are place within the conventional criminal justice system at present namely probation, restitution and community service (Zehr, 1990). Admittedly they are not readily termed restorative justice programs however they are grounded in its theory.
The current conventional criminal justice process takes a more punitive, ‘retributive’ view of criminal justice. The retributive approach has become grounded into our current system of justice whereby it intends to establish blame on offenders and make them repay their debt to society by inflicting a form of punishment (Ball, 2000). The general stance in relation to the ‘retributive system’ is that its more offender-oriented and its focus is the past rather than the future (Griffiths, 1999). In addition to establishing blame, it tends to give less attention to future-oriented concerns such as how to repair the damages caused by the crime and how future recurrences can be prevented (Young, M, 1999). It has been argued that the existing ‘retributive system’ places excessive emphasis on the past...

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