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Today, the development of Restorative Justice Programs is very important because these programs help to close the gap between victims and offenders. Moreover, Restorative Justice Programs are beneficial for both victims and offenders. On the one hand, they help victims to recover after offenses, whereas, on the other hand, they help offenders to understand the essence of their crime and return them to the normal social life through recognition of their guilt and establishment of normal social relations with other people. At the same time, the development of Restorative Justice Programs raises a number of ethical issues which refer to both victims and offenders as well as the society at large. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that Restorative Justice Programs raise the risk of the enhancing the traumatic effect of an offence on victims. In addition, it is possible to single out such ethical issues as the effect of the Restorative Justice Program on the integration of offenders into the community where they can live after the release from prison, for instance, as well as the problem of the responsibility of offenders for psychological and physical sufferings their victims have once suffered and which may resume when offenders and victims come across again in terms of the Restorative Justice Program. In addition, the Restorative Justice Program raises the problem of the role of the justice system and law enforcement agencies in the re-integration of offenders into the normal social life and assistance to victims to return to the lifestyle they used to before an offence has been committed. Hence, the Restorative Justice Program, being very important, raises significant ethical problems which affect all the parties involved and these ethical problems should be taken into consideration in the course of the development, implementation and evaluation of the program.
On analyzing the development and introduction of the Restorative Justice Program, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that such program can have a potentially negative impact on victims of offenses. To put it more precisely, the Restorative Justice Program can increase the risk of enhancing traumatic effects on victims. What is meant here is the fact that victims of offenders have already suffered from the negative impact of offenses on their psychological state as well as their physical health. The Restorative Justice Program can involve the interaction and communication between offenders and victims that naturally increases the risk of the negative impact of offenders on victims, especially if victims have not fully recovered yet after physical injuries and/or psychological trauma. In fact, the ongoing return of the victim to an offence can provoke a long-lasting depression or other psychological problems, including various phobias. In such a situation, the Restorative Justice Program can be an extremely stressful factor for victims of offences. Hence, the question arises whether such programs should be applied at all because victims should be protected from the impact of offenders, while many victims attempt to forget the offence and start a new life. At any rate, they may need a serious psychological recovery after an offence, whereas the Restorative Justice Program practically returns them to and reminds them about the offence and related physical and psychological injuries.
At the same time, the Restorative Justice Program affects not only victims but also offenders. In this regard, ethical concerns about the integration of offenders into the community arise. In actuality, offenders, especially if they served a term in prison, need to integrate into the community and start a normal social life. In such a situation, the Restorative Justice Program basically aims at the assistance to offenders in their integration into the normal social life of the community. However, the participation of offenders in such programs can draw the attention of the public to the personality of an offender and his or her past. As a result, offenders can turn into a sort of outcasts, who are excluded from the community. On the other hand, the community, in its turn, can develop a negative attitude to offenders because of their past. In this respect, it is hardly possible to underestimate the significance of biases and stereotypes that exist within communities in relation to offenders. In fact, the introduction of the Restorative Justice Program may lead to the revelation of offenders and their exclusion from the community that naturally undermines all the efforts from the part of social services and other institutions to help offenders to integrate into the normal social life of their community.
Furthermore, another ethical issue related to the Restorative Justice Program concerns the responsibility of offenders for sufferings of their victims. In this regard, the Restorative Justice Program has to be implemented only on the condition that offenders do recognize their guilt and they are ready to view sufferings of their victims at their full psychological and physical extent. On the other hand, the ongoing reminding of sufferings of victims can lead to the development of negative psychological effects in offenders, who may start feeling guilty for problems of their victims, even if these problems are not related to the offence once committed. In such a situation, offenders may develop negative psychological effects, which resemble of their victims, such as depression, for instance. At this point, the personal attitude of offenders to their offence is very important because if an offender understands his or her crime, he or she will be able to understand his or her victimâ€™s sufferings. In contrast, if an offender does not recognize his or her crime, he or she will never understand his or her victim, while the Restorative Justice Program will have little if any effect on the offender. Moreover, such programs can provoke a new wave of aggression from the part of an offender to his or her victim because, the offender feels the defenseless position of the victim and attempt to revenge on the victim for the punishment the offender has undergone.
Finally, the development, implementation, and evaluation of the Restorative Justice Program raises one more ethical issue concerning the role of law enforcement agencies and justice system in the re-integration of offenders and recovery of victims. In fact, while developing and implementing the Restorative Justice Program, law enforcement agencies take responsibility for the life of offenders and victims because such programs affect inevitably offenders and their victims. In such a situation, it is possible to speak about the interference of law enforcement agencies conducting the Restorative Justice Program into the life of offenders and victims. It proves beyond a doubt that such interference can have disastrous effects on the life of offenders and victims. In such a context, while evaluating the Restorative Justice Program, it is important to decide whether law enforcement agencies do have the right to interfere into the life of offenders and their victims at all. For instance, offenders have already â€œpaidâ€ their price for the offences they have once committed in relation to their victims because they served their term in prison or got other forms of punishment. In such a situation, the Restorative Justice Program does not really help offenders to restore after their offences but rather continues the punishment in a different, more sophisticated form.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the evaluation of the Restorative Justice Program should take into consideration several ethical issues, including the effect of the program on the integration of offenders into the normal social life in their community, enhancing the traumatic effects of offences, the responsibility of offenders for sufferings of their victims, and the overall role and the moral right of law enforcement agencies to implement such programs and their effects on the life of offenders as well as their victims. In this respect, it should be said that the development of the effective evaluation system is impossible without taking into consideration the aforementioned factors. At any rate, it is important to avoid the negative impact of the Restorative Justice Program on the life of offenders and their victims. Otherwise, such programs can prevent offenders from the re-integration into the normal social life and evoke new psychological problems in victims.