‘Restorative justice empowers victims and challenges offenders.’ To what extent do you agree?
One of the key issues of our contemporary society is that we have to start to be aware that ‘the social relationship’ is one of the main elements of our lives. Society as a whole is a more complex structure, so we must cease to perceive life only in terms of the individual. However, most of our laws continue to believe that only the individual matter; this is seen most obviously in how the law treats interpersonal relationships that give rise to conflicts. An international effort was made to find alternatives to criminal punishment and incarceration as a means of rehabilitation of offenders. But the idea itself is not only to find as many and more effective alternatives to the deprivation of liberty, but to understand, forgive and support. Of these alternatives, ‘possibly the most influential development in “crime control” in the past decade'(Crawford and Newburn, 2003:38) is restorative justice. In restorative justice, also known as reparative justice, crime is not seen as a violation of the law , but as a product that harms people and the community. If the criminal justice system victims are often ignored, some authors even speak of a re- victimization of their victims, within restorative justice, victims are central. The first objective of the restorative justice process is to repair the damage caused to the victim and/or the community; offenders are treated in a manner more appropriate to their needs as restorative justice emphasizes on the rehabilitation of the offender and also on the compensation/repair that the offender can offer to the victim. At the same time, it emphasises on their social reintegration as both, a more humane way to treat criminals and a concrete way to avoid a re-offend (Newburn, 2007).
In this essay I will firstly present what is restorative justice and how restorative justice processes are structured, followed by a description based on literature review and case studies of how the restorative justice system empowers victims and challenges offenders, taking into account all the limitation of this practice.
Restorative justice is not a complete new phenomenon. Similar principles can be recognised in the Anglo-Saxon law, and even earlier such as Roman Law or the Code of Hammurabi c. 2000 BC (D van Ness). Also, it resembles with system of justice practiced in the Aboriginal and Native American communities, but with time, societies have turned away from this kind of practice, later coming back to it as seen in the last decades. Restorative justice has emerged as an alternative to retributive penal system; it offers a change of perspective to the classic system of justice, thus building on the premise of a participatory approach in resolving conflict and repairing the harm. The new penal philosophy assumes that all parties should be involved in the response to crime, the victim, offender and the community. Under this philosophy...