According to Zehr (750), Restorative justice seeks to make amendsbetween the offender and the victim without the involvement of athird party. Whilst the criminal justice system seeks to punish theoffender, restorative justices seek to make a better relationshipbetween the offender, the victim and the community. The processoffers the stakeholders to the offense an opportunity to say how theywere affected by the crime and what it will take to repair thedamage. The restorative justice system takes into account the factthat the victim has been hurt and punishing the offender may notprovide the retribution that the victim seeks.
Although restorative justice is an arguably new system of addressingcriminal law suits, the process is taking root in numerous countries.Among them are South Africa, Canada, Scotland, and England. Countriesare adopting this practice after realizing that punitive actionagainst the offender only increases the vengeance in the victiminstead ofalleviating the pain inflicted.
The victim in this type of justice takes a leading role. On the otherhand, the offender takes responsibility for their actions byapologizing, or returning the stolen item. In this kind of setting,the victim is compensated for the harm caused by the offender unlikein the punitive justice system. The offender also goes home knowingthat what he did was wrong and if he happens to repeat it, he mightface similar of more dire consequences.
The most common category of restorative justice is thevictim-offender mediation, which usually involves a small number ofpeople. In most instances, it is usually a meeting between thevictim, the offender and the mediator. The work of the mediator isnot to act as a third party interventionist but to help in thereconciliation process. The mediator sets a meeting between the twopeople who are not in good terms and then proceeds to initiatedialogue. This category of restorative justice is prevalent in thedocumentary ‘The Interrupters’. At the beginning of thedocumentary, just outside Neema Mathews’ office, a verbal fighterupts between two young men. One is hit on the head, and a fightthat may turn out to be fatal is looming. Neema manages to cool offthe tempers of the two young men and averts a possible shooting organg war. She also takes the aggrieved young man to his cousin’shouse using her car.
Neema’s actions are a depiction of restorative justice throughmediation. She was able to persuade the young man to avoid fightingback lest it turned out to be a fatal clash. She gets in the middleto avert a possible crisis. She then does something to compensate thevictim for the rock that landed on his head- she takes him to hiscousin’s house where he gets attention and cools off his temper.
The principles of restorative justice that separate it fromtraditional criminal justice systems are the questions upon which itbuilds its Zehr (566). The first question is who was hurt? Thisrefers to the person whose rights were violated or offended. Theneeds of the victim are also an important factor to consider. Somevictims may require medical attention, apologies, or return of stolenproperty.
Worth noting also is under whose obligation that the outlined needsfall on. More often than not, it is the obligation of the offender tosatisfy the needs of the victim. The process should also consider thecauses of the conflict in order to prevent a recurrence in thefuture. Finally, the process identifies who has more stakes beforeembarking on the most appropriate way of solving the issue.
Restorative justice also seeks to offer retribution to the victim.However, it should not be confused with retributive justice (Strang8). In restorative justice, retribution forms a part of the needs ofthe numerous needs of the victim. Restorative justice is notconcerned with offering revenge or doing unto the offender whateverhe did to the victim instead, it seeks to compensate the victim forwhatever he went through. On the other hand, retributive justicemainly seeks to satisfy the vengeance of the aggrieved party. It aimsat making the offender pay for what he did to the victim. This formof justice is more inclined to revenge than meeting the needs of thevictim.
In the documentary, the principle of retribution is highlighted whena young man loads his gun in order to seek revenge for the murder ofsomeone close to him (The Unterrupter 5). His pursuit for revengewould only lead to more violence or a rise in gang violence. Instead,the interrupters talk him out of the revenge mission by telling himthat violence will only fuel more violence. Their words seem to beworking when the young man agrees not to revenge the murder of hisloved one. The story of the interrupters offers insight on howbeneficial restorative justice could be to the society. A decrease inviolence on Englewood is a testimony of the benefits of restorativejustice.
Strang, Heather. Repair or revenge: Victims and restorativejustice. Clarendon Press, 2002, Print
The Interrupters (2011). Documentary, Retrieved from<http://www.pbs.org/video/2195390746/> Accessed May 18, 2016.
Zehr, Howard (2015-01-27). The Little Book of :Revised and Updated (Justice and Peacebuilding) (Kindle Locations744-753). Good Books. Kindle Edition, Print