This paper attempts to define restorative justice, explain why it is important to the criminal justice system and explain means in which it is carried out, with emphasis on the benefits of using this system to resolve homicide cases given the values of the system. In addition, the limitations of restorative justice and functions of the current criminal justice process that are beneficial and need to be maintained will be discussed. Restorative justice is an efficient means of resolving cases of homicide. Restorative justice is a criminal justice mechanism by which parties involved in a crime collectively decide how to deal with the consequences of that offense and its implications for the future (Dignan, 2005).
This system’s primary goals are to: better address the needs of victims - physical, economic, emotional and social (including those of secondary victims who may be similarly affected), to avoid re-offending by reintegrating offenders into the community, to allow offenders to take active responsibility for their actions, recreate a collaborative society that promotes the treatment of criminals and victims and is engaged in crime prevention and lastly, to provide a means to prevent the expansion of legal justice and related costs and delays (Marshall, 1999). This system aims to heal victims, offenders and communities affected by crime by considering the needs of the aforesaid parties. As well as give victims, offenders and communities the liberty to be involved in the justice process as early and as fully as they would like. Lastly, it encourages that the responsibilities of the government and community in maintaining justice be reconsidered; members of the community should always put the community’s interest before their own to maintain peace, whilst the government should maintain order by creating external limits on individual behaviour to reduce conflict and to control the way in which conflicts are deliberated (Van Ness & Strong, 2010).
Restorative justice programs include victim-offender mediation where offenders meet with victims to explain themselves, apologize and pay restitution to them. Conferencing, which is also a victim-offender meeting, however, in the presence of the family/friends of both parties, a person trained to facilitate restorative processes (convener) and other members of the public. Circles are also a restorative justice program where, similarly to the mediation and conference restorative processes, they provide a room for interaction between the victim and the perpetrator, but step beyond that to include the public in the decision-making process. Participants in the community can range from the justice system staff to anyone in the community concerned about the crime. Everyone in attendance is given chance to voice their opinion in the proceeding (Van Ness & Strong, 2015). In general, the restorative justice system is beneficial to the community because it has a high rate of success in reducing repeat offenses as the risk of recurrence is greatly reduced because populations reintegrate their residents after damage has been repaired. Those who have offended have the chance to make things right, learn from the system, and put the matter behind them, so they can go on to live a crime-free life more easily. Moreover, with reduced recidivism comes a safer community. Restorative justice empowers individuals to make living spaces healthier and more friendly for their communities and towns. Furthermore, a restorative approach to crime saves the government money by keeping offenders from becoming part of the criminal justice system for crimes that can be solved by public and victim intervention at the local level (Sherman & Strang, 2007).
In cases of homicide, secondary victims are offered the opportunity to have a safe and facilitated dialogue with the person who harmed their loved one. They feel empowered in the process and confident in it because they are recognized and considered, which in an often-impersonal system gives them a voice. Secondary victims are given the opportunity to clarify how they have been affected, to get answers to their questions, and to understand what the perpetrator wants to do to make corrections. In addition, restorative justice can give people whose family or friends were victims a sense of security and peace of mind because they were given a chance to play an active part in the justice process and meet with the offender. This makes them gain closure and be more likely to move on from the incident and get back to their daily lives (Van Ness & Strong, 2010).
Furthermore, restorative justice gives offenders the opportunity to make it right. They have the opportunity to express regret and apologize for their actions, helping both themselves and their victims. They are also afforded a way to put the incident behind them. People who offend have a chance to make substantial and appropriate corrections and then move on. In the knowledge that the matter is settled, they can return to their communities if or when they are released from prison. In addition, compared to the criminal justice system, the process of restorative justice is swift, allowing offenders to make meaningful changes in their lives more quickly (Sherman & Strang, 2007)
In contrast, restorative justice relies heavily on voluntary participation therefore if no party is willing, there is no other option but to allow the usual course of formal justice. Therefore, there is no prospect of justice being completely restorative and of being completely replaced by formal justice. Furthermore, the accessible level of resources and expertise is another obstacle to any program that seeks to engage populations. Society is not as cohesive as it once was. Personal privacy and independence are given greater importance, and there are major social differences between cultures and age groups (Marshall, 1999).
The current criminal justice system uses a retributive mechanism which relies on threat of punishment in an attempt to reduce the likelihood of people committing crimes. In my opinion incarceration is a good aspect of this system, considering there are criminals who do not have any remorse for crimes they have committed and are likely to commit other crimes. Prisons serve as a rehabilitation centre for such offenders and it protects the society at large from being victimized (Ezorsky, 1972). In conclusion, restorative justice is a philanthropic approach to seeking justice as it accounts for the well-being of both the victim and the offender. The systems main intentions are to restore peace in the community and make amends between secondary/primary victims and the offender. It assists the victims to go back to their normal lives after the offense and tries to make the offenders return into the community easier.
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