Restorative justice is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders, as well as the involved community, instead of satisfying abstract legal principles or punishing the offender. Restorative Justice approaches to crime date back thousands of years. The word restorative justice has appeared in written sources since the first half of the nineteenth century. In Restoring Justice –An Introduction to Restorative Justice, Daniel W. Van Ness and Karen Heetderks Strong say that the term “restorative Justice” was likely coined by Albert Eglash in 1958 when he distinguished between three approaches to justice:
(1) “retributive justice”, based on punishment. (2) “Distributive justice” involving therapeutic treatment of the offenders; and (3) “restorative justice,” based on restitution with input from the victims and offenders. Author Howard Zehr stated that “with crime, restorative justice is about the idea that because crime hurts, justice should be healed. It follows that conversations with those who have been hurt and with those who have inflicted the harm must be central to the process. Restorative justice and traditional criminal justice seeks different outlooks.
Traditional Justice seeks answers to questions such as what laws have been broken. , Who did it, and what do the offenders deserve? These questions are based on the legal aspect. On the other hand Restorative Justice seeks answers to questions such as who has been hurt, what are their needs? , Who has a stake in the situation? And last but not least what is the appropriate process to involve stakeholders in an effort to address causes and put things right. There are studies that were done in 2007 showing the positive effects restorative justice especially for victims. It showed Greater ability to return to work, to resume normal daily activities, and to sleep.
Reduced fear of the offender (especially for violence victims); lower perceived likelihood of another offense; increased sense of security; reduced anger towards the offender; greater sympathy for the offender and the offender’s supporters; greater feelings of trust in others; increased feelings of self-confidence; reduced anxiety. some of the most common criticisms that used against the practicality or realism of restorative justice are: restorative justice erodes legal rights; restorative justice results in net-widening; restorative justice trivializes crime (particularly men’s violence against women);
Restorative justice fails to “restore” victims and offenders; restorative justice fails to effect real change and to prevent recidivism; restorative justice results in discriminatory outcomes; restorative justice extends police powers; restorative justice leaves power imbalances untouched; restorative justice leads to vigilantism; restorative justice lacks legitimacy; and restorative justice fails to provide “justice”.
Additionally, some critics like Gregory Shank and Paul Takagi see restorative justice as an incomplete model in that it fails to fix the fundamental, structural inequalities that make certain people more likely to be offenders than others. Me personally I do feel like Restorative Justice is a variable alternative. I like this aspect because all crimes don’t have to always involve the law. It is a way to not only help the victim get back to a comfort zone but it rehabilitates the offender finding ways to prevent the crime from happening again.
References 1. Zehr, Howard. Changing Lenses – A New Focus for Crime and JUSTICE. SCOTTDALE PA: 2005, 268-269. 2. www. restorativejustice. org.