We look around and see our world becoming a bit stabby and crimey. Whatever stats say, that’s where public feeling lies. But restorative justice has been proved to reduce criminals re-offending by getting the criminal and victim face-to-face…?
What is the current justice system like?
Uh, er, well. It’s pretty shabby, actually. Although this has been written from mostly a British perspective, most of it will still stand for the country where you live. At the moment, the criminal is not expected to take responsibility for their actions. The criminal is seen as committing an offence against the state, whereas actually they’ve usually committed an offence against a person. The victim is not encouraged to say how the event has affected them. Criminal and victim aren’t allowed to talk to each other – it’s always other people speaking for them.
In Britain it costs £45,000 a year to keep a criminal in prison. That would be an amazing way of spending public cash if it worked, but it doesn’t. Criminals going into jail for relatively tiny crimes like GBH or nicking stuff come out of prison harder and sharper with a head full of scary new skills they’e learned and they’re just itching to re-offend because prison has reminded them how much society hates them, so they really couldn’t give a sh*t.
Is this a vicious circle? Well, currently, yes. But it doesn’t have to be. We’re not doom and gloom here at Mookychick – we’re here to tell you that there IS another way. A way which works!
What is restorative justice?
- Restorative justice works over a period to allow a criminal and victim to do three things together – feel guilt, receive forgiveness and have their voice heard and understood. These things are key to stopping criminals from doing any more crimes.
- The harm done by a crime is considered an offence against the person or community, not the state. The state is faceless. Why would anyone care?
- Victims are allowed the opportunity to participate
- Victims and others may be brought together with an impartial mediator to consider what happened and find out what can be done to help put it right
- Responsibility and (re)integration are encouraged
Restorative justice: The criminal feels guilt
To feel deep regret for your crimes is really, really important. It shows you understand what a crime is. If you’ve done ten murders and a couple of raped, because all your mates are doing that kind of thing too, you just think “that’s life”. It’s a huge step for a person to feel sorry for what they have done. To understand the consequences of it. To suddenly wake up and think “I have killed ten people. I have raped two people. How could I have done this? What have I done?” And most importantly… to say, and mean it, “I’m sorry.”
Putting a criminal in a place where they feel guilt and a need to atone is something the social justice system HAS to do – it’s the only way to stop people committing more crimes.
Getting a criminal to feel guilt for their actions is also, obviously, very important to the victim. The victim feels more satisfied. The victim usually finds it much easier to get on with their life once they understand the criminal is truly sorry for what they’ve done, and also once they’ve been allowed to tell the criminal just how it changed their lives.
Restorative justice: The criminal receives forgiveness
Nowadays the criminal is encouraged to think that society views them as scum that can’t be saved. So they think they might as well act like ‘scum’. If you’ve done a crime, and you know the system hates you and people hate you, what have you got to lose? You might as well keep up the bad work.
So a criminal also needs to be given a sense of forgiveness. Being forgiven by their victim gives a person release. Forgiveness shows you DO actually get accepted back into society after you’ve expressed true sorrow for what you’ve done. You’re not a forgotten lost soul that nobody cares about. Your life can become better. There’s always hope for you. You’re not worthless.
How does restorative justice work?
Both the victim and criminal need to accept a course of restorative justice willingly. After some sessions where the victim and the criminal are counselled separately, they are brought together. Face to face. The criminal can’t hide from what he’s done because he’s seeing the consequences of his actions right in front of him. Or her. The victim can’t label the criminal as a faceless ‘evil’ because he can see a human being right in front of him. Or her.
By bringing the criminal and the victim together, both are able to work through what has happened to achieve guilt and forgiveness – and, for both parties, a sense of relief, that the crime has been truly addressed by the system.
Restorative justice has been proven to work and to vastly reduce the number of re-offenders. Don’t believe us? Here’s a video which shows a victim and criminal describing their experience of restorative justice. The criminal in the video, Peter Woolf, has by his own reckoning committed about 20,000 crimes and before restorative justice he was “quite chuffed by that”.
How can I find out more about restorative justice?
- www.restorativejustice.org.uk is a good place to start.
- Search for ‘restorative justice’ on YouTube and you’ll find all sorts of interesting stuff
- Google ‘restorative justice’ and you’ll see it’s a process also used in schools for bullying and all sorts of places and situations, not just prison. And it always seems to make a difference.
Activism: How can I get involved?
Hopefully after doing your own research you’ll agree that restorative justice is marvellous. Unfortunately it only exists as small schemes, although some places like Sweden are really kicking off with the schemes and showing the rest of the world how it’s done. We at Mookychick would love to see schemes like this as the norm rather than the crayzee liberal exception, because they’re ethically sound and proven to make a difference.
- Tell your friends about restorative justice. Highlight that restorative justice is “a constructive way to respond to crime” that can “hold offenders accountable directly to those they’ve harmed”, that “serves victims who are sometimes marginalized in a criminal justice process”. There’s nothing more powerful – or underestimated – than word of mouth.
- If you are the unfortunate victim of a crime, ask your local police department for a restorative justice referral. Even if the department is not currently partnering with a restorative justice scheme, it’s likely that they’ll want to learn more and may do some research to make it happen.
- Write letters to newspaper editors expressing interest in/support for the restorative justice program. Letters to the editor are among the most widely read sections of the newspaper.
- Write letters to your local/state/county representative appealing for an increase in restorative justice options for those affected by crime.
- UK-based? Find out about RS-related study and courses
- Make a donation
Students having a wee chat about restorative justice.
The victim of a violent crime at the hands of a young schizophrenic when she was 19 explains how she turned into a ‘nasty, bitter’ person but found restorative justice finally allowed her to get on with her life.