Nelson Mandela once said, “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner”. This is essentially a main characteristic of restorative justice- to reconcile society, the victim and the offender- but also to rehabilitate the offender so that he is no longer an “enemy” of the criminal justice system. This form of justice is gaining support in South Africa; however there are limitations to this form of justice which also in turn limit its success in the future. Restorative justice alone is definitely not a method of justice which we can adopt but it may be possible that this form of justice can help if it is integrated into the criminal justice system.
WHAT IS RESTORATIVE JUSTICE?
In 1997 restorative justice was defined as a process which redefines crime extending the interpretation to the wrong done to another person and not just the breaking of the law the victim and offender are encouraged to be directly involved in the resolution process of the dispute in the sense that the offender takes full responsibility for their actions and the victim and the community fully participate in the resolution process. Restorative justice is a fairly new process of punishment in the area of criminal justice, it is the idea that the offender should right the wrong that was caused- this process directly involves the victim and the offender. Restorative justice is more recently defined as a method used to address the hurts and needs of both victims and offenders which repairs or heals the relationship between both parties as well as the relationship within the community. The goal of restorative justice if to create a better environment for all parties affected (the victim, offender and in some cases the community). Restorative justice is important as it focuses on reforming and rehabilitating society which potentially integrates offenders back into society rather than them being ostracized. In this way it aims to create a better society. In the context of South Africa restorative justice is an important development in the criminal justice system as it decreases the costs incurred by the state on prisoners and inside prisons, this is of benefit as South Africa is struggling with the problem of overcrowding in prisons and lack of resources to provide for the prisoners. Restorative Justice aims to create a response to crime which respects the dignity and equality of each person, builds understanding and promotes social harmony, it addresses the needs of the victims as well as that of the offender, allows the offender to take responsibility for the wrong that was committed , allows the victim and society to be actively involved in the resolution process in the form of mediation, rehabilitates the offender and integrates the offender back into society by repairing the relationship between the offender and the community together with the victim.
Restorative Justice vs. Retributive methods