Restorative Justice: Conversation Between Victims & Offenders
April 7th, 2017
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Imagine having an opportunity to speak directly to someone who has committed a crime against you and to tell him/her face to face about the adverse effects of their crime on your life! This process is called Restorative Justice. It involves the victim and offender as well as the community.
In India, very few people may have heard of it but in Europe & North America it has been making a lot of headlines in recent years.Restorative justice is an approach of providing further justice to victims. Restorative Justice helps the victim and offender by facilitating a conference between them to deal with the harm caused by crime and other conflicts. It enables those who have been affected by any type of crime to have their question answered where offender takes the responsibility of their wrong doing and takes the opportunity to repair it to the maximum extent, to redeem themselves in their own eyes and in the eyes of the community.
Restorative justice is an approach of providing further justice to victims. Restorative Justice helps the victim and offender by facilitating a conference between them to deal with the harm caused by crime and other conflicts. It enables those who have been affected by any type of crime to have their question answered where offender takes the responsibility of their wrong doing and takes the opportunity to repair it to the maximum extent, to redeem themselves in their own eyes and in the eyes of the community.Restorative justice repairs the harm caused by crime. When victims, offenders and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results can be transformational.
Restorative justice repairs the harm caused by crime. When victims, offenders and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results can be transformational.
How does it work?
- Trained personals or authorized agency must mediate the whole process.
- The offender must take the responsibility of the damage or harm caused by their actions.
- Both Victim and the offender must be willing to participate.
- Restorative justice can only take place if a trained facilitator decides that it would be safe and suitable.
- The facilitator will speak to Victim and offender to discuss what has happened and prepare for a meeting, often called a conference.
- In the meeting, everyone will get to have their say and can agree to address the harm.
- In appropriate cases, victim and offender can invite agreed supporters to come with them.
- In some cases a meeting may not be suitable, but the process may be undertaken by another form of communication, over the phone calls or video recording may be considered.
- Restorative Justice Processes must comply with the rule of law, human rights principles.
- Restorative Justice must promote the dignity of victims and offenders, and ensure that there is no domination or discrimination
Is it effective and Helpful?
Restorative Justice is a proven way to reduce the impact of crime on communities. In Europe, 85% of victims who took part in Restorative Justice are satisfied with the process and the frequency of criminals re-offending reduced by 14 percent and 17 percent in UK alone. Impressed by the results of it The Ministry of Justice in the UK is currently working on its third action plan on restorative justice since November 2014.
It gives the offender a chance to: admit what they have done and the impact it has had, make up for it in some way work to change their behaviour.
Most importantly it spreads the awareness in the community/society about the type of crime which took place and saves others from falling victim of it.
Where can it be applied?
In criminal cases & social Justice Cases: in criminal cases participants from either side can have their question answered. Offender can reveal the reason what incited the crime and have an opportunity to compensate to the victim directly to the maximum extent; this may include money or community etc. This will help the offender to sympathise with victim and also will help in educating others.
In prisons: Even though it’s very hard to involve the victims in the process in prisons but offenders may go through a serious transformation in their character by restorative justice program. It is to assist with the prisoner’s rehabilitation, and eventual reintegration into society. Mrs. Kiren Bedi did lot of reformatory work during her tenure in Tihar Jail.
Domestic violence cases: Restorative Justice can be life changing tool in domestic violence cases. Most domestic violence cases go unreported, many families & lives are ruined, Domestic violence victims who have been bearing the harm often remain quiet fearing that any action against the crime might break their family; Restorative justice may provide them a perfect platform to address their problem and still keep the family intact.
Juvenile Crime cases: To apply restorative practices in treating juveniles, we do need to strike a balance between care and punishment. Juvenile justice reforms are to get offenders and their communities, particularly their families, to take responsibility for offending. The use of restorative justice provides chances for young offenders to restore relationships with their family members & with the society. It can also help in reducing the fear and violence in young victims and offenders.
Can it work in Indian Context?
Restorative justice may sound rare in India as compared to the West, but it has slowly started to make an impact. There are many examples in history which thoroughly explain and testify to the Existence of restorative justice practice in India. The kings who ruled various part of the land has always practices restorative justice in a traditional way with the principles of fairness and equality. One of the most famous and recent incident It was when Priyanka Vadra Gandhi travelled to Tamil Nadu in 2008 to meet Nalini Sriharan lodged in Vellore jail for the assassination of her father, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Restorative Justice needs to be embraced & recognized in a larger and legal way given the fact that Indian courts have millions of pending cases. Addition to misery is that about 20% of the sanctioned positions for judges are vacant, whereas the annual increase in pendency is less than 2%. There were close to 400 vacancies for judge’s post in country’s 24 high courts. There are some 30 million cases in various courts.
What are the dangers to Restorative Justice Program
- Inadequate preparation may jeopardize victim-offender mediation conference and it may inhibit them to participate freely in a genuine dialogue.
- Victim insensitivity and coercion may occur in which programs may end up not being sensitive to the emotional, informational and participation needs of the victims.
- Young offenders feeling intimidated by adults, including police officer in uniform and others;
- Lack of neutrality by the mediator (police officers, probation officers, or school officials) which give rise to shaming the offenders;
- Ignorance of the concepts by legal, social work, criminal justice professionals.