In many countries, restorative justice emergence under different forums including justice system, academia and activism workplace. The concept of restorative justice is described as an alternative means of settling disputes. These include new criminal justice system founded on the principles of restoration to the communities, offenders and victims living in our society(Walgrave, et al., 2013). The process involves the diversion from the formal court process, to alternative means of ensuring similar court decision are observed throughout the process such as from arresting, pre-sentencing and prison release. The restoration of justice is aimed at improving the justice system of the country(Edwards, 2015). It is applicable in child/family welfare protection, criminal justice and juvenile justice cases. Studies have shown that restorative justice incorporates informal justice, transformative justice and reparative justice among others.
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The Change of Criminal Justice Policies in the Past 30 Years
In the last three decades criminal justice has evolved because many practices and programs have been implemented under the restorative justice rubric. Initially, restorative justice focused on bringing victims and offenders to the table to try and strike a deal for resolving the conflicts(Acton, 2015). The moderated meeting adapted the traditional mediation models. Progressively, the mediation meetings incorporated friends, families and professional of the parties as well as other stakeholders who have access to the community resources(Ferguson, 2015). Criminal justice policies that have evolved over the past three decades includes prisoners’ rights and alternatives to prisons, conflict resolutions, victim-offender reconciliation programs, victim-offender mediation, victim advocacy, family group conferences, sentencing circles and other practices. The objectives of these policy changes is to minimize the punishment of offenders through incarceration and if possible to abolish prison and jail terms.
Some professionals and scholar have argued that offenders are victims of gender and racial discrimination, impoverished communities and societal neglect which could be avoided by eliminating these virtues in the society. The need to create a caring community that conclusively addresses the issues affecting victims and offenders gained momentum in 1980s. Based on legal principles of criminal justice system, formal legal process was receiving growing concern of disillusion with adversarial adjudication and fact-finding(Walgrave, et al., 2013). Therefore, negotiation was considered the appropriate alternative option because it is less centralized. In addition, restorative justice focuses on restoring the right relationship between the victim’s and offenders’ parties. Through, the incorporation of religious institutions and principles, the policy of victim-offender reconciliation program was introduced in United States. The objective was to boost close working relationship and cohesion in the society.
The Factors that have Led to Change in Criminal Justice Policy
Many factors led to change in criminal justice policy of which some of the factors have been discussed in the above paragraph. Some of the factors included that in early criminal justice system, it was focused on punishing the offender and neglecting the motivation aspect on the part of offenders. Past criminal justice system emphasized on compensating the victims and sentencing the offender(Walgrave, et al., 2013). Professional and scholar found out that it was not just enough to compensate the victim, rather it was important to identify factors that motivated the offenders to commit the crime. As a result, restorative justice emphasized on identifying the motivational factors at the community level in order to eliminate them in the society. The second factors was the increasing number of prisoners in the United States in late 1980s and early 1990s. The growing number of incarceration made the justice department to establish an alternative option of dispute resolution. As a result, restorative justice focused on introducing alternative option of resolving conflicts without relying on incarcerations.
The third factor that led to change in criminal justice policy was the need to reconcile the victims’ and offenders’ parties as a means of creating cohesiveness in the society. Restoration justice intended to achieve this through negotiation and the sense of creating a caring community as well as establishing the right relationship among all the communities living in the society(Zernova, & Wright, 2011). The forth factor was eradicate aspect of discrimination and inequality in the society. Considering that the judicial system is perceived to be free, impartial and fair to all people in the society, legal professionals and scholar argued that formal judicial system is characterized with adversaries relating to fact-finding and adjudication process.
The Importance of Restorative Justice to the Future Criminal Justice
Critical analysis of various justice models including rehabilitative, retributive and restorative justice models indicated that the overall outcome of justice system is to punish the crime, treat the offenders and repair the harm. The comparison of these three justice models indicated that restorative justice is superior in the future over the other models. This shows the importance of restorative justice in the future in relation to progressiveness in the justice system(Ferguson, 2015).
Some of the important aspects of restorative justice include moving beyond oppositional caricatures of justice, address the relationship between consequentialism and retributivism to restorative justice, it gives less promises and use more accurate terms. However, it is important to incorporate restorative justice with the current practices in the formal justice system.