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Restorative Justice: Is the Message Getting Through?

Sep 23, 2013

From the article by Javed Khan:

It's funny how you find out that you're winning the argument.

I was watching EastEnders when I realised attitudes towards restorative justice were really shifting.

The episode showed Kat Moon meeting Ronnie Mitchell - the woman who had stolen Kat's baby - at the prison gates.

It was an intense and dramatic scene ending with Kat inviting Ronnie to stay with her, despite her continuing anger at the crime.

For years we have been arguing that victims want more than just punishment for their offenders - they want them to stop committing crimes and to understand the impact of those crimes. In some cases, victims even want a face-to-face explanation from the criminal about why they committed the offence.

When these themes emerge in Albert Square I get the feeling the message is getting through.

In EastEnders, it was the victim driving the meeting - it was on Kat's terms and focused around her suffering as the victim.

For my charity, Victim Support, that is a crucial point.

Restorative justice must be focused around the victim and not simply a means of making offenders feel better about themselves. Only by listening to the victim and addressing their needs can a criminal truly understand the impact of their crime, and that in turn increases the chances of them not re-offending.

Done properly it can help victims and cut crime, so at Victim Support we have no hesitation in taking part in it.

With partners, we are already running schemes across the country with police and prisons and have plans to pilot more through crown courts later this year.

Just this week burglary victims in Gloucestershire spoke positively of meeting their offenders and telling them about the impact the break-ins had on them and, particularly, their children.

Read the full article.

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John Perry, Vermont
John Perry, Vermont says:
Sep 23, 2013 12:42 PM

So many of our folks think that Restorative Justice is about the offender. This is not so. Restorative Justice is about helping the victim heal, and repairing the community; then, when amends have been made, the damage repaired, and responsibility acknowledged, it can be about the offender.

Lisa Rea
Lisa Rea says:
Sep 23, 2013 11:33 PM

I agree with Victims Support. Here in the U.S. we are still having the debate about restorative justice: what it is and what it's not. Is it soft or is it tough? Through my association, Restorative Justice International, we stress the need for victims-driven and victims-centered restorative justice which we stress to separate us from those who believe all justice reform is suddenly restorative justice. It is not. If a reform is victims-centered it can be. RJI believes that for true systemic reform to be effective reforms must meet the needs of victims and involve them as much as possible after crime. We also strongly advocate for a victims' right to meet his/her offender.

Thank you for this column. We like what we have read and we appreciate the work of Victims Support in the UK.

Lisa Rea, President & Founder
Restorative Justice International (RJI)

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