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Features of Restorative Punishment

Restorative punishment is a new program aimed at dealing with crime differently from the conventional criminal justice methods. Similarly, the restorative punishment is considered a theory of justice that ensures remedying the injuries gained through criminal behavior. It emphasizes the consequences of crime to people and society, and strives to get the offender and victim participate in the justice process. The restorative punishment approach stresses the accountability and reparation to the accuser by the offender (Cohen 2016, p. 436). The process of restoring the offender, community, and the victim takes place in face-to-face meetings. This is a powerful method of revealing not just the physical harm as a result of the crime, but also the psychological and social damage. In case one of the parties does not willingly participate in the meetings, the government experts use other ways to achieve restoration. For instance, if a professional wants to achieve accountability from an offender, then they use strategies such as community service or restitution. This paper explains in details the reasons for restorative punishment, features, assumptions, goals and objectives, and some of the methods used in the process.

The restorative punishment program is different from the criminal justice system of today because it involves accusers or persons injured in the legal proceedings. Every model specifically aims at enhancing the accuser’s satisfaction with the outcome (Cohen 2016, p. 436). Additionally, restorative punishment examines criminal behaviors comprehensively, that is, it considers the impact of the crime on the victims and the society. It engages more parties in the case. The process succeeds in various ways; it does not just examine the extent of the punishment, but also justifies the extent of harm remedied.

The method is flexible because every case is discussed separately. It allows all the parties involved to address their issues individually. It ensures the preservation of rights and dignity of each party because they are forced to respect each other’s opinions. Such a method facilitates social harmony because the offenders, victims, and community undergo a process of healing. The process ensures elimination of stigmatization especially on the side of criminals. The approach aims at problem-solving through serious examination of the causes of crimes. It is effective when dealing with various offenses, especially those involving juvenile offenders (Cole, Smith & Dejong 2014, p. 469). The primary aim of the intervention is the education of criminals on critical values. Responses reveal the participation of society as the main factor in prevention of crime.

Assumptions of Restorative Punishment

The program features several axioms. First, the offenders should understand that their actions are not acceptable and that the harm caused to the victims is real. Second, the outcome of the process should ensure maximum repair of the injuries. Third, the criminals should acknowledge and accept their actions and be willing to take responsibility. Fourth, the response should grant maximum opportunity for the victims to reveal their needs and the best way in which the offender can guarantee reparation. The last assumption is that the participation by the society affected is mandatory (Cole, Smith & Dejong 2014, p. 469).

Values and Objectives

The restorative process entails four elements that help achieve its goals. There should be a victim, willingness by the victim to participate, an offender who pleads guilty to their criminal behavior, and an offender’s willingness to participate in the restoration process. Some of the values of the program include empowerment of the parties, enhancement of respect, consensual results, and flexibility. The goal is to develop a non-threatening situation for the parties to ensure a safe situation for addressing their concerns. The objectives of the process are varied, but first and foremost the program aims at supporting the accusers through assistance and encouragement during the process (Ministry of Justice 2012, p. 632).

A restorative justice program addresses the issues and needs of victims, giving them a chance in decision-making. That allows them to focus on the positive things in life. Another objective is trashing an agreement on the best response to the crime. This way, the parties can maintain a better relationship that was otherwise broken by the injuries caused by an offense. Peacemaking and resolving issues are the best methods for guaranteeing justice for the victims. The other objective is the reaffirmation of community values and condemning criminal actions. Denouncing criminal behavior is done in a more flexible way, which considers the elements of the offense.
Additionally, the restorative process tries to find forward-looking solutions. It does not focus only on the crime committed or sentence given, but also on the individuals injured. The anticipated restorative results are the repair. Furthermore, integration into the community is challenging, but the process ensures a smooth transition from criminal behaviors to accepted ones (Ministry of Justice 2012, p. 632). It is a paramount approach that guarantees identification of the causes of a crime and even designing the best crime reduction strategies together with local authorities. It is not just a flexible method. It is open to anyone with interest to give helpful opinions on reduce crimes.

Restorative Justice Programs

Victim-Offender Mediation

A common restorative justice initiative emphasizes the needs of the victims while stressing accountability by the offenders. The programs can be held by state agencies or other organizations and deal with less severe cases. They can operate at various stages, for instance, the pre-charge and post-charge levels. The mediation process is likely to be fruitful if the accuser and the offender meet face-to-face. In the presence of an experienced facilitator, the parties can reach a consensus and avoid further conflicts. The facilitator usually holds meetings with both sides separately in anticipation of a face-to-face meeting. There are three conditions necessary for a victim-offender mediation to take place (London 2014, p. 489). First, the offender must acknowledge responsibility for their crime; both parties should be willing to participate , and a safe environment should be created. The mediator helps both sides reach an agreement that considers their needs and provides a lasting solution.

For example, the Czech Republic Probation Mediation Service Centre assists in mediating effective remedies to criminal offenses. Mediation only occurs if the two parties agree. When dealing with an offender, the Probation Mediation Service officer (PMS) brings up new issues that connect with the solutions to the problems and repair relationships. The primary reason for this is that the accused needs to be aware of the social links of the offense and be ready to resolve them proactively. The PMS Officer in connection with the person accused is to determine the causes of the offender’s actions (London 2014, p. 489).

The Family Group and Community Conferencing

Various conferencing approaches have facilitators. The aim of the conferencing method is wider than that of the mediation process. It entails gathering families of both parties plus the community members to participate. The process involves determining favorable results for the victims and the offenders after the injuries caused and finding appropriate solutions for eliminating any chances of reoccurrence.

The role of family group conferencing is to challenge the accused with the harm of the criminal behavior and create a reparative strategy. The offender in this situation is expected to adhere to certain agreed results because the circle includes people who provide support to the accused. Also, the members of the circle take part in monitoring the accused’s behavior to ensure they follow the rehabilitative measures (Tonry 2011, p. 426). Community conferencing can also be used to determine the punishment for the offender. The program is controlled by community agencies, sometimes without the aid of the government. The group usually involves individuals with more links to the offender and the accuser and any society member with an interest in the case. The concerned community agency monitors every move of the offender to determine their adherence to the conditions of the agreement.

An good example would be an offender, his father and uncle, the victim, and local authority that made the arrest making speeches about the offense. After they had spoken, the youth justice facilitator asks if there are any further contributions from the members present. Those are the three of the offender’s teachers, victim’s friend, and others who have assembled at a local learning institution (Tonry 2011, p. 426). The facilitator continues to request suggestions on what the offender should do to compensate the victim, a resident who had suffered injuries on his head and neck in an altercation with the accused. In the remaining forty minutes of the hour-long meeting, the group agreed to grant the victim restitutions to cater for the health care costs. They also decided that community service on the school grounds would suit as a good punishment for the accused.

Circle Sentencing

This program is applied mostly in Canada, where all parties such as the prosecutor, judge, victim, accused, their families, community members, and police officers sit around a table. The process only applies to guilty offenders. The discussions of the panel are focused on the needs of the accuser, the community concerns, and the appropriate punishment for the accused. Arriving at a practical solution for dealing with the conflict is the primary objective (Van Ness & Strong 2013, p. 278). The circle sentencing relates to the participatory justice because the community engages directly with the other parties in the case. The role of the community, in this instance, is to determine viable ways of responding to conflicts in the area.

The stages involved in the circle sentencing are determining the suitability of the case to prompt a circle process, preparing the parties, identifying unifying methods, and conducting follow-ups. An essential principle of the circle sentencing is that the process used to achieve a suitable solution is more fundamental than the sentence itself. The results of the circle are given to the judge who may or may not have been present. Circle sentencing has various objectives starting with needs of all the parties through reparation and reconciliation. It is vital that all the members of the circle participate actively because their opinions and suggestions will influence decisions made.

For example, an accuser, the wife of the accused who had been assaulted by her husband after getting drunk, revealed the pain her spouse has inflicted (Van Ness & Strong 2013, p. 278). After concluding, the ceremonial feather was passed to another young man who talked about the offender’s contributions to the society through offering some of his farm produce. Additionally, the accused helped repair his neighbor’s fence. After that, one of the elders took the feather and spoke about the shame the husband had brought upon their community. The judge suggested that the victim resolves the issues with her husband because it seemed the two still had lots of connections (Walgrave 2012, p. 359). The judge felt that the two needed time to sort their problems out. Upon completion of the case, the judge emphasized the gravity of the crime that suggested a jail sentence. However, it was revealed that if the accused had met the conditions, which included enrolling in a local anger management program, complied with the requirements of the accuser, and accepted completion of his 30 hours of community work under supervision, then he would not be jailed. After a prayer by one of the elders, the circle was dismissed, and all the members went to help themselves to refreshments.

Implementation of Effective Restorative Punishment Program

There are particular factors required to implement an effective restorative punishment process. They include a strategic method, proper communication to educate the officials and the parties linked to the case, using available resources such as the voluntary sector. Additionally, there is a need for efficient partnerships between the criminal justice organizations and the ones that are community-based, well-trained personnel, and an active framework that determines the extent of responsibility (Weitekamp & Kerner 2012, p. 389). There should be criteria to determine the type of cases that are referred to restorative programs and viable performance indicators.

Conclusion

The objective of this paper was to offer a detailed view of the issues connected to restorative punishment systems. Various segments of the paper stress the types, objectives, and various programs that utilize the restorative process. Numerous examples were used in the paper to illustrate the nature and scope of the corrective punishment around the world. These examples reveal the manner in which the communities and governments have applied elements of restorative punishment to resolve criminal cases. The program is still growing with many countries starting to adopt it since it is not time-consuming and reduces the costs of lawsuits. It continues to develop into various forms because the community and relevant authorities implement its principles in ways that guarantees consideration of the needs of all the parties.