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Step 2: Face Your Challenges and Obstacles

What needs to be overcome in order to reach your goal? Some of the obstacles and challenges are external: they come from outside you and your program. A n example of an external challenge or obstacle is the public response to particularly horrible crimes. Others are internal: they are impediments that come from within you or your program. An example of an internal challenge or obstacle is that everyone involved with the program is too busy to do anything else.

Read through the following comments by Kay Pranis as you think about this:

  • Even where there is a high level of support for the restorative philosophy in the criminal justice system or community, broader public policy trends around the world are often in the opposite direction. Prison populations in many countries are growing rapidly and the cost of that expansion threatens the resources to work with victims and offenders in the community. Increasing dependence on incarceration may further paralyze the system making change much more difficult. Practitioners are frequently so overloaded that it is very difficult for them to think about questions of underlying values or philosophy.
  • There is also a great risk that the existing system, with its overwhelming orientation to offenders, will be unable to shift to a truly victim-centered approach to resolving crime. The habits of the system are strong. Even in jurisdictions committed to shifting to restorative justice, corrections practitioners frequently forget to involve victim representatives in their planning at the beginning.
  • It will take great vigilance to insure that victims' issues are given proper consideration. Victims groups vary in their reaction to restorative justice. Some see potential for a much better system for victims; some are watching and withholding judgment; some are adamantly opposed, believing that implementation will result in practices that are harmful to victims. They fear that the system will use victims to rehabilitate offenders. That the court will order 'restorative' activities without asking victims what they want. Even when asked, victims may not feel free to express their real feelings. These fears are grounded in previous experience with a system that regularly re-victimizes and disempowers victims and doesn't even know it.
  • A restorative approach might be unevenly applied, benefiting certain racial, ethnic or economic groups but not others. Such an outcome would be the opposite of restorative justice philosophy and values. Oversight by the state remains very important to minimize the likelihood of biased results.
  • The greatest risks involve implementation that fails to be true to the values of restorative justice. It is crucial that the values be clearly understood and frequently articulated to guard against the dangers of straying from them in practice.

Make a detailed and specific list of the obstacles that you face.

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