Crime and delinquency

How to deal with crime and delinquency has long been a debated issue in Canada and still is today while crime seems to be increasing. Some argue for rehabilitating law breakers, while others argue to increase the severity of their punishment. Many Canadians, especially victims, are upset at how the current formal adversarial justice system operates because the tribunals are often seen as unresponsive to the needs of people in the conflict; conflicts are framed in legal language; and the process is confusing, time consuming, and costly (*Law, pg. 1).

In the adversarial justice system, victims also have very limited opportunity to say how they have been affected by crime, the system keeps victims and offenders apart while others speak for them, and the offender is not encouraged to accept responsibility. This justice process is also known as event based (Law, pg. 15) and is mainly centered at finding the defendant guilty or not guilty and lacks focus on the underlying problems which cause the conflict. An alternative to the adversarial justice system which I would argue is more productive at reducing crime is a restorative justice system.

This system is particularly strong in the Canadian aboriginal community (Law, pg. 27) and many other European countries such as the Czech Republic, Albania, Moldova, Slovenia, Poland, and the Ukraine. Restorative justice is as process in which the parties with a stake in a particular offence, (the victim, the offender, and community members), are supported and voluntarily participate, with the assistance of a fair and impartial facilitator, in a discussion of the circumstances surrounding an offence.

The purpose is to understand its underlying causes and the effects on those who have been harmed, and address the needs of the parties for healing and reparation (Law, pg. 15). Although restorative justice processes take various forms, the models used most often are conferencing, sentencing and healing circles and victim-offender mediation. Unlike the adversarial system, the participatory system is relationship based (Law, pg.

16) which focuses on helping the victim come to terms with the aftermath of the crime, holding the offender accountable for the crime and its consequences and, where appropriate, re-establishing their relationship in the community. The restorative justice process works well because it provides victims with the opportunity to express their feelings about the harm that has been done to them and to contribute their views about what is required to put things right.

Some studies of restorative justice programs show that victims who are involved in the process are often more satisfied with the justice system and are more likely to receive restitution from the offender. Involvement can also help victims heal emotionally as well as lessen their fear of the offender and of being a victim of crime again (Department of Justice Canada). The down side to restorative justice programs is that they can be time-consuming and emotionally draining.

For some crime victims, meeting the offender can be very difficult. Another weakness to this type of justice system is that delegating the power to develop solutions to the communities, even the parties themselves, assumes that these are healthy communities or people whose decision-making will be fair and balanced (Law, Pg. 127). Otherwise it's possible the community might make the offender accept a greater degree of punishment and humiliation than they might have received from a trial (Law.

Pg. 128). Or it may be the defendant who settles for less than a court would have granted them. We can't predict a communities response because its based on more than just facts of proving him guilty which "can make society's response more terrifying than the crime itself" as one author put it (Law. Pg128). Another real tough issue is deciding when and what type of community intervention is necessary when it comes to personal privacy and family matters.

For example, in divorce mediation, a woman who has been a victim of spousal abuse may experience pressure from her community to agree to an outcome that does not sufficiently protect her or her children from further harm (Law, Pg. 124). In summary, I do not think restorative justice systems should ever replace all other criminal justice systems in Canada, but I do believe they can be an effective approach to decreasing crime and delinquency in Canada based on the benefits discussed earlier.

However, like I mentioned before, it's tough to decide in what situations they're appropriate so its necessary to clarify when: 1. When an offender admits guilt, accepts responsibility for his or her actions and agrees to participate in the program; 2. When the victim of the crime freely agrees to participate in the program, without feeling pressured to do so; 3. When trained facilitators are available in the community and a restorative justice program is in place. If all three are not considered then its best to use the courts as a mediator.

And finally, I believe that if we really want to decrease crime in Canada it needs to start with educating our youth and giving second chances to those in prisons who want a second chance in life. That's why I would propose implementing a restorative justice system in schools and in prisons. A system like this in schools would teach youths to accept conflict as part of life, allow them to take responsibility for their feelings and behavior, empower them, show teachers and parents how to handle conflicts in positive ways, and repair a school community.

In prisons, inmates are only there to serve their time and not required to face up to the effect of their crime so they learn nothing and are likely to re-offend when released. A restorative system would allow for victim-offender mediation and conferences to be used in prisons, allow prisoners to take full responsibility for their behavior, and provide opportunities for the inmates to improve their self-esteem to get back out into society again and redeem themselves by contributing back to society.