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For many young people today, traditional patterns that guide relationships and transitions between family, school and work are being challenged. Social relations that ensure a smooth process of socialization are collapsing. The current lifestyle is becoming more complicated and less predictable. Therefore delinquent and criminal behavior among young people, as they undergo transition from childhood to adulthood in an increasingly complex and confusing world is likely to be witnessed. Many a times when crimes are committed, in particular crimes committed by juveniles, the criminal justice system will take a different approach from just incarcerating the offender. Most times they turn to restorative justice to bring justice to victim, set their mind at ease, and provide justice to the offender by maintaining punishment. In terms of juveniles, they are more likely to reoffend and their crimes to become more serious, "it is estimated that 6 out of every 10 children ages 10 to 12 referred to juvenile court will return" (Mcgarrell, 2001, para 1). Therefore, early intervention in the form of restorative justice would benefit not only the offender to break them of their delinquency, but the community as well.
When we look at restorative justice for the juveniles, we are trying to repair the damage done to the victims, while bringing justice to the offender. "Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by crime and conflict. It places decisions in the hands of those who have been most affected by a wrongdoing, and gives equal concern to the victim, the offender, and the surrounding community" (Community Justice for Youth, n.d. para 1). Restorative Justice for juvenile often results in the use of conferencing or circles where the offender and victim are brought together with a trained individual to work out the crime through discussion.
Therefore, restorative justice views crimes as a violation of one person against another. It emphasizes equal concern for the victim and offender and also emphasizes on the use of coercion. It focuses on the harm done to persons and restoring damaged relationships rather than the violation of law. The objectives of the restorative justice approach include; repairing the harm done to the victim, restoring the offender to be a law-abiding citizen and enabling the offender to be reintegrated into the society and the victim to be reinstituted.
Restorative justice invites full participation of both parties. This means that the victims and the offenders are involved, but also there is room for those who feel that their interests have been affected in one way or another such as family members of both the victim and the offender. Here the young offender, their families and the victims come together to decide how to deal with the young person's offending. The offenders and their families plan how the offence and its consequences will be addressed, and how the offender's rehabilitation will be supported in the future.
Restorative justice seeks to repair what has been damaged. Victims may need information of what happened that led to the damage caused. Victims may also need to express hate, anger or vengeance towards the person who harmed them. They may also need reparation. Young offenders on the other hand may too need healing. They may need release from guilt or fear. They may need resolution of problems that led to the crime and they may need an opportunity to make things right. Risk factors that led to the commission of the crime are addressed. For example a child might have asked his or her parents to buy them maybe a toy, but the parents say they do not have money and because the child needs the toy very much, he or she goes and steals money so as to buy the toy. So next time the child asks for something the parents will have to struggle to provide for their child because they do not want a repeat of the crime again. That the child wanted the toy very much and the parents did not provide the toy is considered as what led to the crime.
Restorative justice seeks full and direct accountability. Young offenders must face the fact that they have broken the law, and they must also face the people they have harmed and see how their actions have damaged other people. They should expect to explain their behavior so that the victim and the community can understand the circumstances that led to their actions. The young offenders should expect to take part in repairing the harm they caused and also apologize to the victim.
Restorative justice seeks to unite what has been divided. Crimes cause divisions between people and within communities. Therefore restorative justice works towards reconciliation of the victim and the offender and reintegration of both parties into the community. The focus is usually on the harm done and what action can be taken to repair it. Both the victim and the offender should have a future which is friendly and not one characterized by the harm the offender caused or the harm the victim suffered. Restorative justice therefore helps the offender understand the harm that he or she inflicted to the victim and society and large.
Restorative justice seeks to strengthen the community in order to prevent further crimes. When crimes are committed they cause harm. Therefore the crime must be addressed and dealt with accordingly in order to strengthen the community and provide a conducive environment for everyone to live with minimal criminal activities or none at all.
Restorative justice allows both the offender and the victim to decide what the offender needs to do so as to repair the damage he or she caused and what assistance he or she will need in doing so. Victims are asked what outcomes they expect from the forum of repairing the harm so that the mediator can make clear to the offender what he or she is supposed to do. It allows both parties to carry out the final judgment together by signing an agreement which outlines their expectations and commitments to each other.
Restorative justice shapes the future behavior of the offender by allowing him or her to reconnect back to the community. This is achieved through talks by both the victim and the offender and also increasing the offender's awareness of the human impact of their actions and provide an opportunity for them to regret, apologize, and take full responsibility of their actions and be forgiven by the victim and community. During the restorative justice process, family members and friends connected to the child offender will participate allowing parents to exercise their parental responsibilities with the support of the community and therefore help to reintegrate the youth back into the society without them feeling stigmatized.
Restorative justice can be used to solve less serious offences committed by juveniles. The court can appoint people to discuss the nature of the crime and the negative effects it had on the victim and community. After a thorough examination, the people representing the court develop a set of proposals which they discuss with the offender and the victim until they reach an acceptable and understandable agreement. They then talk about the method, specific actions and time for the reparation of the crime. Offenders will have to update the representatives of the court on the progress in fulfilling the terms of the agreement. After the time for reparation ends, the representatives of the court then submit a report to the court on the offender's compliance with the agreed proposals.
In restorative justice system young offenders are treated more fairly and they understand what is going on because they directly participate by being empowered to express their views with unlimited time to do so and they are treated with respect and fairness. This is because the restorative justice many times takes place in a less formal setting without complicated procedures which the young offender may find difficult to comprehend.
Restorative justice enables the young offenders to be educated, counseled and held accountable for their wrongdoing through a human, voluntary and informal procedure. This gives the juveniles the chance to restore their relationship with their parents, relevant social authorities and also the community at large and to be forgiven instead of being stigmatized. A young offender can be more readily reintegrated into society.
Restorative justice encourages reconciliation between the victim and the young offender and hopefully reduces re-offending. If the victim and the offender can meet and talk things through, the victim can tell the offender about the real impact of the crime and also obtain answers and reparation, while the offender has the chance to understand the harm he or she has caused and to make amends.