Restorative justice is a new paradigm within the criminal justice, particularly in the context of youth offenders. The philosophy behind restorative justice is to consider the juvenile's interests to develop them into beneficial citizens, and it augments the principle behind juvenile justice and corrections. Restorative justice approaches provide the juvenile justice system with leniency when approaching youth offenders while at the same time holding the offenders accountable through rehabilitative approaches. The core elements of restorative justice include rehabilitating and restoring the youth offender, restoring and making restitution to the victim, and restoring the entire society. Programs employed in the restorative approaches can apply in both community correction centers and institutional treatment programs. Juvenile court and statutes aim to protect the child and not to punish them (Latimer, Dowden, & Muise, 2005).
However, juvenile justice has evolved over the centuries, and this has seen to the changes and demands for harsh sentences, but the objectives of the juvenile justice system remain to develop the youth offenders by providing them with a second opportunity in the society. Prior to mid-1800s, parents had absolute authority over the juveniles, which made them capable of punishing them to death. Even so, evolution has seen to the development of juvenile systems to eliminate the punitive approach of parents, and create a correcting approach to change juvenile delinquent behaviors. In comparison to punitive approaches, many literatures have provided evidence against punitive approaches, but supported the effectiveness of restorative approaches. One of the areas where the restorative approaches have shown effectiveness is in the reduction of recidivism rates (Bynum & Thompson, 2005).
Youth crimes remain a significant social issue in many countries and societies in the globe. The involvement of youths in crime is an area where the law shows concern. Typical crime that the youth commit include rioting, gang crime, theft, robbery, and murder among many other serious and minor crimes. The problem of youth offending is complicated, and there is no single factors that can explain why the youths turn to crime because research has shown that, a combination of factors induce youth offending. Similar to other criminal problems, youth offending has adverse effects on the society. In retaliation, governments have provided approaches to deal with this youth offenders, and the approaches vary from country to country.
Some countries employ more punitive approaches, whereas, others have embraced restorative justice. After applying such approaches, there have been different outcomes. For example, studies have shown that states or countries, which employ punitive approaches to youth offenders, increase the chances of youth re-offending. This is because the youth mix with hardened criminals, or the punishments they go through, make them hardened criminals in the future. However, countries that employ restorative justice, research has shown that the approach works well in reducing youth re-offending. This is because this approach focuses on changing the youth's delinquent behavior, while making them accountable, but in a lenient manner.
Importance of this Study
Apparently, there is no single factors, which can stand accountable for inducing youth offending, but research has shown that a combination of factors induce youth offending. The factors may include poverty and bad school performance, neighborhoods and peer pressure and many other combination of factors. Punitive methods will only increase the chances of youth re-offending, and this does not help reduce the problem at hand. Instead of employing punitive approaches, it is important to try to change the youth's delinquent behavior through counseling. In addition, the youth, after perceiving that there are people who care, they will voluntarily provide information about possible factors that may have lead to criminal activities. This will make it easier to curb juvenile delinquency. Therefore, this study is important because it will provide a framework, which will help provide an insight into the effectiveness of restorative justice, in reducing youth offending.
Retributive justice, which is a punitive approach, refers to the achievement of justice through the unilateral imposition of punishment. Western criminal justice systems employ this approach in the context that, an offender, having breached the law, deserves punishment and, to re-establish justice, have to receive punishment proportional to the crime committed. The core principle in this approach is that, wrongness of the crime committed justifies the imposition of punishment for justice to take its course. It is, therefore, understandable that retribution is the basis of all the contemporary law regimes. Retribution serves the moral ends of a society, and does not consider the offender, hence, considered serving as a social deterrent (Wenzel et al., 2008).
Restorative justice is an alternative to retributive justice. In restorative justice, punishment does not core, and it stresses on repairing the harm inflicted through criminal acts. Cooperation is the central role, whereby the criminal and the victim take part to achieve restorative justice. It is a less punitive approach, but critics suggest that it is ineffective in violent youth offences. When one compares retributive and restorative justice in youth offenders, the latter provides an insight to the crimes and in most cases reduce recidivism rates. By giving the youth offender a chance to explain, confront and comprehend the consequences of their offenses, restorative justice allows for social exclusion and possible stigmatization (Wenzel et al., 2008).
The overall objective of this proposal is to develop a research framework, which an investigator will use to establish whether restorative justice does, or does not reduce chances of youth offending. Therefore, the guiding question will be as follows;
1) Do Restorative Justice Approaches Reduce Youth Offending?
Restorative justice, in its many approaches, is increasingly becoming an essential aspect in efforts to reduce government expenses on incarceration. Many countries have adopted these approaches such as Canada, England, Japan, and other European countries. Nonetheless, restorative justice concepts' remain a challenge in defining, and the term has applied interchangeably in concepts as community justice, transformative justice and relational justice (Wenzel et al., 2008). The fundamental principle of restorative justice is that criminal activities are a violation of society and relationships, rather than a violation of the law. In such a context, therefore, the best approach to youth criminal behavior is repairing the harm caused by the crime. In so doing, the juvenile justice system should give the affected by the criminal activity (victim, offender and society) a chance to discuss the situation, and try to reach an agreement in the provision of the proper reparation. Most importantly, this discussion is voluntary for the affected parties, and this essential because it contributes to the achievement of an agreement.
In comparison to traditional non-restorative approaches, restorative approaches appear to show more success in achieving justice. This is because the approach allows for discussion, which also contributes to enhancing offender and victim satisfaction, increasing offender compliance with the restitution, and reducing recidivism rates, when compared to approaches such as probation, and incarceration. Restorative justice has other benefits, for example, it helps in reducing costs, and reduces offenders' desire to commit a crime. In the context of youth justice, restorative justice shows more potential for positive results. Interventions employed in restorative justice produce results more satisfying than punitive approaches. Evidence suggests that the approach is proper as it induces satisfaction to the victims and their communities. It is even encouraging because there is no single study, which has proven that restorative interventions are less effective in this context (Latimer, Dowden & Muise, 2005).
There are two different views of justice. In the punitive approach, crime is a violation of the law and the state, and the violations create guilt. Therefore, the justice will require the state to show the crime, and subsequently punish the offender. Overall, the offender will get what they deserve in relation to the severity of their crime. On the other hand, restorative justice offers a varied view in the same context. Crime is a violation of people, relationships, and the society. In this way, the violations create obligation, whereby, achieving justice will involve the victims, offenders and the community to put thing right, or repair the damage. Therefore, the victim will need the offender's responsibility for consequent reparation of the damage (Fathurkhoman, 2013).
Prior studies further feel that the principle of restorative justice is realizing wide acceptance in the international community. The translation is that restorative justice is not only a philosophical idea, but also a legal approach to address youth offending and delinquency. In other terms, there are three fundamental principles for the foundation of restorative justice. (1) To achieve justice, it is important to work to restore the affected. (2) those who most directly affected and involved in the criminal activity should have a chance to take part in the response voluntarily; and (3) the role of the government is to preserve a just public order, and the society's is to create and uphold a just peace. The principles have influenced the criminal justice policies, in respect to youth offenders globally. They principles are clear…