Restorative Justice: A Message of Hope for Victims and offenders

This guest post was written by Md. Saleh Akram, Lecturer, Department of Law and Human Rights, University of Asia Pacific, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The society is consisted of social elements. A controlled society draws attention to the crime-victim relationships, criminal treatment system, sociological overview, socio-metric observations, human assembling, political system, social action and other relevant issues for making a society crime free. The formal criminal justice system is based on a retributive approach to criminal justice. Crime is perceived as an act against the state, leaving the individual victims neglected and ignored and the offenders imprisoned and unable to make direct amends. The victim’s needs for restitution, answers, an emotional outlet and the restoration of power and autonomy are left unattended. By not providing victim’s needs, they left with feelings of fear, distrust, guilt, shame, anger and helplessness. The restorative justice approach to criminal justice aims to provide for the needs of the offender and the victim. Restorative justice sees crime as a conflict between individuals. The focus of restorative justice is on compensation to the victim for any material or psychological loss, problem-solving for the future, allowing time for information and emotional needs to be addressed and a mutually agreeable restitution to be determined.

Restorative justice is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offense to collectively identify and address harms, needs and obligations in order to heal and put things as right as possible. Restorative justice has high acceptance in high context situations where victims and their families forgive offenders if he or she admits guilt and takes responsibility. Enmity and revenge that has gone on for generations can be ended in days, leading to forgiveness and forgetting. In the famous Pustho song, “The verbal wrong needs verbal repair.”

According to Zehr and Mika (1998), there are three key ideas that support restorative justice:

  1. First, is the understanding that the victim and the surrounding community have both been affected by the action of the offender and, in addition, restoration is necessary.
  2. Second, the offender’s obligation is to make amends with both the victim and the involved community.
  3. Third, and the most important process of restorative justice, is the concept of ‘healing,’ or the collaborative unburdening of pain for the victim, offender, and community.

There are four elements of restorative justice system i.e.; mediation, reconciliation, restitution, compensation. The goals of the restorative justice approach include reconciliation, rehabilitation, crime prevention, accountability and restitution. Victim offender reconciliation programs are based on the restorative justice model, and are community mediated victim offender conflict resolutions designed to be fair to both the victim and the offender. Restorative justice is an alternative to the formal criminal justice system, designed to improve conflict resolution, provide material reparations to victims, prevent recidivism and offer a speedier and less costly alternative to formal processes.

Restorative justice system helps the victim and offender by following ways:

In favour of victim:

  • the victim is given the opportunity to express his or her views directly to the offender;
  • the victim has the opportunity to obtain realistic compensation for losses incurred as a result of the incident;
  • the victim receives answers to questions about the offense that only the offender can provide;
  • the victim has the opportunity to be involved in the sentence of the offender; and,
  • victims are more likely to receive restitution through one of the elements of restorative justice than through the court.

In favour of offender:

  • the offender is able to take direct and personal accountability for actions;
  • offenders have the opportunity to learn about the consequences of their actions, apologize, express regrets, and make amends directly to the victim; and,
  • the offender is given the opportunity to participate in a process through which the stigma of a criminal record can be avoided.

In favour of community:

  • restorative justice system contribute to the peace of the community by assisting persons to reach resolutions that address the cause of the conflict; and,
  • restorative justice system save society money.

Our goal to ensure restorative justice is not to send all the victimological matters to the judicial arrangements. We hope a crime free society. Restorative justice provides help for the offender in order to avoid future offences. Negotiation leaves both parties satisfied with the results; the result is a mutually satisfactory solution. The victim and offender work together to find a solution, leaving the victim, the offender and the community with the feeling that justice has been served and that life will return to normal.

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