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Victims’ rights and restorative justice: Is there a common ground?

Nov 22, 2012

from the article by John Lash on Juvenile Justice Information Exchange:

Last week my column on the resentencing of juveniles who had received life without parole drew a comment from the National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Lifers (NOVJL). The commenter had a legal argument in opposition to my own view, but more striking, at least to me, was the sentence that asked how I am going to, “support, inform, and not re-traumatize the devastated victims’ families left behind in these horrible crimes.”

I continue to reflect on that comment, and to ponder indeed how I am going to accomplish these goals. In moments of doubt I wonder if they are indeed incompatible. The way in which policies are changed is often adversarial, and such positioning can lend itself to demonization, even the demonization of victims of crime. This goes beyond civility, as important as it may be, to what values we as a society want to embody. I want to help create a society that cares for the needs of everyone affected by crime, most importantly of all the victims and their loved ones. If those needs are ignored then justice is not done.

Many members of NOVJL are in support of Restorative Justice, and their website points out many areas of policy where advocates of both juvenile offenders and victims can come together in agreement. Jennifer Bishop, the leader of the group, in an interview with Youth Radio, said that restorative justice isn’t applicable in cases of murder, since the victim cannot be restored, but also went on to say, “There’s another term — transformative justice — that seeks to transform the experience for both offender and victim. I’m a strong supporter of that.” This approach is about finding ways to transform what has happened, and is not dependent on the offender’s release.

I am heartened by these signs that there is indeed some common ground between those who support victims and those seeking juvenile justice reform. I intend to keep these considerations in mind in my own attempts to bring restorative justice to my community, and to encourage others to do the same.

Read the whole article.

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Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins
Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins says:
Nov 26, 2012 07:43 PM

Thanks to Mr. Lash for this positive article, and of course these are nice words for us to hear. What is lacking from most advocates for offenders, who promote RJ for offender-focused reasons,is ACTIONS in support of victims to back this up. We await those steps with great anticipation! And further we are hopeful that Mr. Lash leads his juvenile justice reform community in those actual concrete steps! Personally, I am surprised that the subject line of this opinion piece is even a question. Of course there should be "common ground" between victims and those who work in restorative justice. RJ IS all about VICTIMS - that is what the "restorative" part is all about. It only shows how those offender-agenda folks have tried to hijack the RJ field that we have to even ask the question. The only true Restorative Justice is victim-centric. Anything else is not RJ.

lisarea says:
Nov 27, 2012 12:01 PM

I agree with Jennifer Bishop Jenkins. Restorative justice is all about crime victims. Its very definition is victims-centered and we believe victims-driven. The challenge, as Bishop Jenkins states, is to go beyond the rhetoric and bring change to the justice system that addresses the real needs of victims. <br /> <br />It is our position at Restorative Justice International that one way to do so is to provide crime victims a &quot;right to meet&quot; their offenders. This is a right not provided today, in most justice systems globally. This would reflect a paradigm shift towards a victims-centered restorative justice system. <br /> <br />In cases of severe juvenile violence, including murder, we believe victims have a right to restorative justice which provides a path towards offender accountability and the hope of some type of restoration and healing. While restoration of a loved one is not possible after violent crime we know from the work we do that restorative justice has empowered crime victims in ways that has provided greater satisfaction with the justice system. And that is a good thing. <br /> <br />Lisa Rea <br />Restorative Justice International (RJI) <br /><a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>

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