Restorative Justice is a different way to look at crime and how we deal with it. Restorative Justice takes the approach of looking at the entire picture of what happened when the crime was committed, how it impacted both parties, and how that harm can be repaired. This process shows the offender that their actions not only affect themselves, but cause harm to the victim as well. By going through this process, it is thought that the offender will be held accountable for their actions. In doing so, this increases the chances that the offender will comply with restitution, and it decreases the percentage of recidivism in offenders. Restorative Justice has also been shown to reduce the victims’ PTSD symptoms and the costs related to it. Restorative Justice can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Some examples of Restorative Justice are victim/offender mediation or dialogue, conferencing, circles, and victim impact meetings.
Restorative Justice can be used even in the case of violent crimes. When Restorative Justice is used in crimes of severe violence, it needs to begin with the offender being willing to acknowledge, understand, and take personal responsibility for the choices they made and the devastation they caused. The offender needs to be able to face the victim/survivor and hear whatever they need to convey to the offender. It also means the offender needs to be willing to express remorse for the effects that their choice had on the victims/survivors. When Restorative Justice is used in this capacity, it does not mean that the offender simply apologizes and is forgiven; it is about being accountable for the irreversible damage they caused.
Most victims/survivors want the offender to understand not just what they did to the victim, but that there are continuing after-effects of what they did. There is nothing that can be done to give back the life that was taken or the trauma and continuing post-traumatic symptoms endured. Some offenders can begin to substantially infer this understanding through in-prison victim impact panels and victim awareness classes; others may only comprehend it by hearing from, or personally experiencing, a facilitated meeting or dialogue with the person(s) they victimized. There are others who end up not being able to comprehend the impacts of their actions at all.
Victims/survivors should be the ones to reach out for Restorative Justice when a violent crime has occurred. While offenders may desire to apologize and it may be heartfelt, only victims/survivors can tell offenders exactly how much what happened has affected them, and they are the ones who need and deserve to be in control of when, and if, they receive or accept an apology from an offender, or whether to consider initiating a victim-offender dialogue.
In crimes of severe violence, Restorative Justice is not intended to have any direct effect or bearing upon an offender’s sentence, classification, or release date. There has been data shown that offenders who participated in Restorative Justice have changes in criminal thinking.
In the future, SOMS would like to be able to offer Restorative Justice services to the public.
Just Alternatives (n.d.) Restorative Justice 101 for Offenders. https://justalternatives.org/offender-resources/restorative-justice-101-for-violent-offenders/
For more information: http://restorativejustice.org/