(d) Retribution serves towards a constructive purpose of -- as Braithwhite calls it -- 'restorative shame' rather than 'stigmatizing shame'
In 1988, John Braithwaite published "Crime, shame, and Reintegration" where he introduced his idea of restorative shaming (Braithwaite, 1997). The conventional criminal justice stigmatizes the individual in that it not only makes him a pariah of society thereby making it harder to reform himself, but also crushes his esteem, causing others to deride and shun him, accordingly often making him react in a reinforcing manner. Seeing himself as 'offender' and finding it extremely difficult to readjust and gain acceptance in society, the offender may be compelled to return to crime as way of livelihood to support himself and as a way of gaining the prestige and status that he m ay need and that he may, otherwise, not gain.
Restorative justice, on the other hand, helps offender atone for his crime by helping him literally and figuratively shake the hand of his victim and enter into a discourse where each acknowledges the harm done by the other and the harm felt, allows the offender to apologize and make amends, and after constructive steps have been taken, to move on to a brighter and wiser future than would likely have, otherwise been the case. In this way. 'Stigmatizing shame' that is practiced by the Criminal Justice system causing community to view offender with disgust, thereby creating distance and likelihood of replication of crime is replaced with 'restorative shame' where offender feels remorse for his hurting others and pledges to make amends. This type of shame strengthens bonds between offender and community with each drawing closer to the other. Braithwaite's recommendation is that one "should hate the sin but love the sinner," giving the offender the opportunity to expiate for his crime and to rejoin the community should he so wish. In order to rejoin, however, offenders should be given the chance to express remorse for their crime, apologize to victims, and repair the harm caused by their violation.
These four elements of restorative justice -- building rather than destroying; focusing on the victim rather than on the offender; perceiving crime as social hurt rather than hurt committed against the Law; and restoring penalty to those who are best equipped to prescribe and describe it -- are the four key philosophies to Restorative Justice and to why I consider restorative Justice to be a far better system than the current Criminal Justice system is.
The multi-facet ness of Restorative Justice
Restorative Justice is popularly thought of as offender making amends to victim as restitution for crime, but actually the reality is far more complex and not so clear. Its system is evidence in various ways some of which include the following:
1. Victim-offender mediation _ This is restorative justice in its classical sense where offender seeks to redress harm perpetrated against victim
2. Family group conferencing -- family, friends, and other participant are added to the victim-offender scenario in order to arrive at the most fitting solution
3. Restorative conferencing -- family, friends, and participants of both sides sit together to discuss the best possible form of action
4. Community restorative boards -- small boards meet with offender and victim and arbitrate or mediate until both arrive at a specific action and a deadline for agreement to take effect.
5. Restorative circles and systems - Neighborhoods and schools are also involved in victim-offender mediation and, sometimes, these may include other prisoners too.
Other slices of restorative justice exclude offender-victim mediation and focus on the offender attending a special school where he continues his education whilst receiving mental help; or participating in community service; or recording his attempts to reform himself and sharing these attempts with victim or with a certain official.
Problems of Restorative Justice
It is the very fact that restorative Justice is so inchoate that leads to one of its criticisms. People have a hard time figuring out what it is.
One of its most vociferous critics, Acorn (2008), points to other shortfalls
1. Rather than the wishful scenario of victim forgiving offender and offender apologizing to victim, it is quite unlikely that any effect will occur but that both will turn their back on the other
2. Offender may pretend to be reformed by restorative justice, but it is far more likely that offender continues with crime
3. That offender will change his reasoning and show remorse merely upon meeting the victim is 'Pollyanna- type thinking and irrational
4. Hope for revenge is a primitive and elemental desire in many victims. It is unlikely that they will forgive offender or his crime
The criminal justice system has a dual responsibility to both criminal and to public. Justice is far more than restorative justice implies in that it also extends to the larger public too. Whilst it is true that crime is a sin between man and man, the offender, were he to be let loose and were retributive justice not to work in his case, may well continue to harm the public. Some rimes are more dangerous than others. It would be foolish to let a child-molester or rapist get loose after apologizing for his crime and being involved in some sort of offender-victim system. It seems to me that a more helpful and cautious model would be one that involves elements of both restorative justice and the conventional criminal justice system. Justice should be balanced by compassion whilst steps should be taken to ensure public protection and safety.
Even though, as Muncie (2004) observes, the two philosophies of justice and welfare are incompatible since whilst the former stresses full individual responsibility for the crime, the latter stresses welfare and treatment to meet the 'needs' of each individual, both should be merged in a way where the needs of all three elements -- victim, offender, and community -- are met. Each should also be met in their particular way, since each is different. The term 'needs', too, needs to be adequately stretched out and thoroughly conceptualized so that complete understanding of the term is obtained. This is particularly so since many offenders, disadvantaged by their life circumstances, may see crime as the ticket to purchasing a roof over their head and free food, medical care, and entertainment, leading critics to condemn the criminal system as being insufficiently punitive and preventative of crime.
Restorative Judgment is a wonderful system that I think should be expanded and worked on with challenges worked through and introduced in many other states. It may, however, not be appropriate to all. Sometimes it works, and toehr times it may not. The State should realize that each individual is different and instruments should be formulated in order to assess with which individual retributive judgment may succeed. As with the offender in the traditional criminal justice system, the offender, too, should be supervised throughout both for the public's protection and to ensure that restorative judgment is working.
Finally, being that address of the crime should seek to make amends to the victim rather than to the State, it seems to that, and me that the case of the victim is inadequately addressed despite the formulated mediations, the victim is barely represented in the justice system. Most of these mediations are focused on the larger picture with the victim's loss, sometimes extremely valuable and priceless, going unacknowledged. The victim needs to have more of a voice in the distribution of justice and in how the offender should improve his circumstance, and victims should participate more prominently in restorative justice initiatives.
Acorn, a. (2004). Compulsory compassion: a critique of restorative justice Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press
Braithwaite, J. (1989) Crime, shame, and Reintegration New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Christie, N. (1977), Conflicts as Property, British Journal of Criminology, 17: 1-15.
Correctional Service of Canada. [Online] Retrieved from:
Dignan, James (2003), Towards a Systemic Model of Restorative Justice, Stanford Law Review, 135-156,
Gravielides, T. (2007) Restorative Justice Theory and…
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