Restorative justice (RJ) is argued to have begun around the 1970’s and is derived from mediation techniques. The aim of RJ is for all of those involved in a particular offence try to resolve issues through a discussion process talking about what will occur now and planning for the future. It aims to aid in the prevention of cases going to court where appropriate, and places great focus on the community. The hope is to rehabilitate offenders through the introduction of the victim of their crime and giving both the victim and offender the opportunity to give their opinion, share their grievances and discuss whatever they feel appropriate in a controlled environment and supervised by a trained professional. Although the majority of cases where RJ is implemented occur before an offence comes to court, and so is used as an alternative to attending court, it can also be used at any stage of the criminal justice process – even after conviction. At the moment RJ is most commonly used with young offenders but also is used in cases of low level offending and where the public is not seen to be at risk.
It is an opportunity for victims to explain to the offender the result and impact that the crime in question has had on their lives as a whole and is a healthy and safe way to express feelings and thoughts that many victims of crime wish they had the opportunity to say which often is unable to happen in a court setting.
Do I think RJ is useful? Absolutely! I think more clear, concise and simple information about RJ needs to be available to the wider public and anyone who may be involved in the criminal justice system, be it an offender or victim. This would allow for more people to fully understand the process of RJ along with all of the benefits – particularly at a time when saving money is high on the agenda! The current prison system isn’t working and in my opinion more alternatives to incarceration need to be utilised, where appropriate, such as RJ. Listening to both victims and offenders and involving them in the process as much as possible is surely a more appropriate way for us to move forward?