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19 September 2012

Restorative Justice

Is fighting fire with fire attitude the best way to deal with crime keeping in mind the growing prison population and growing recidivism rates?

Over the last few decades there have been new crimes which have emerged. They are of greater intensity and have created a sense of fear in the society. But we continue to use the same mechanism that we used for the previous crimes to deal with this new situation. The practises in criminal justice policy have to be altered to fit the current scenario. It is not always possible to have a deterrent or rather a fear based system to keep people from committing the crime in question.

One of the growing concerns is the increasing rate of recidivism and the clear inability of the justice system to prevent the deviant behaviour from being repeated. In light of such an issue the concept of Restorative Justice evolved. This spoke of including victims and the offenders to interact in a manner so as to understand the scenario of the crime and also helps the victims in dealing with their fear. This also helps the offenders realise the impact their act has had on an individual and the community at large. This forces them to take responsibility for their actions and they get a chance to give something back to the society.

There have been various methods of enforcing restorative justice by conducting victim/offender mediation, direct or indirect reparation where the offender may write to the families apologising or may work to benefit the society in some manner.

Many European countries are moving towards the methods of restorative justice. These countries which predominantly followed highly punitive justice system have seen a significant rise in the incarceration rate along with a high recidivism rate. Hence, this change was needed to formulate a more effective justice system.
This method is essentially viable in the case of first time juvenile offenders in their offence against a person. The need for a restorative approach rather than a retributive approach for the juvenile cases is necessary so as to avoid any further deviant behaviour of graver concern.

Many European countries have adopted the restorative justice model to deal with juvenile justice, in prisons and in schools. The overall response has been very positive. The program has helped the victims have greater trust in society and in the justice delivery system. This is the next step to a safer society with a more versatile justice delivery system.