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Restorative justice for delinquents mainly focuses on mending harm done as a result of delinquent behavior. While most approaches in juvenile delinquency solely emphasizes on punishing or giving treatment to delinquent youth, restorative justice seeks to patch up harm caused by the offender by involving the community as a whole and holding the offender accountable for their behavior. Those who support restorative justice system argue that rehabilitation cannot be achieved until the offender acknowledges the harm caused to victims and communities and makes amends (Bazemore and Umbreit 1997). Therefore, restorative justice programs are voluntary in nature and require offenders, if they are to take part, to admit responsibility for the deliquent act. Some of the most common programs typically associated with restorative justice are mediation and conflict-resolution programs, family group conferences, victim-impact panels, victim-offender mediation, circle sentencing, and community reparative boards, rehabilitative community Service, victim and Offender Conferencing, victim and offender Dialogue/mediation. "it is approximated that 6 out of every 10 children ages 10 to 13 referred to juvenile court will come back" (Macgarell, 2002, p. 19). Therefore, early on intervention and help in the form of restorative justice would benefit not only the offender to break them of their delinquency, but the society also.
A restorative justice approach has traditionally been used by indigenous communities to uphold a unified community, while holding standards of conduct and addressing injury done to its family members and the society as a whole. Restorative justice is not a particular program but is a move toward justice. Restorative Justice helps victims, survivors, offenders, and communities to take a pro-active approach to delinquent behavior and engages all parties involved in the healing process after a crime has been committed.
Restorative justice is beneficial because it provides a chance for the injured party to explain how they have been hurt or affected and to question offending youth..."to explain how they have been distressed by the event. At the end of the conference, the participants reach a settlement on how the delinquent can make amends to the affected party and they sign a reparation agreement" (Macgarell, 2001, p 15). By accepting these meetings or circles, it helps prevent crime in the future through control and embarrassing. It falls under a conjecture that shaming is built on the principles of control and deterrence. (Macgarrell, 2002). These conferences embarrass the delinquent by having to face the realization of the injured party and their fears and wounds from the offence, hence giving the victim the control and hopefully deterring the offender. "An important feature of restorative justice is fairness, where all parties not only agree on the proposed solution, but offender accountability is also heightened" (Champion, 2008, pg. 189).
This model also provides for balanced attention to youth accountability, competency development, and community protection.
Some arguments that have been put forward to support restorative justice include the fact that it is more cost effective as it saves the court's money as well as time and the cost of custody. It also serves to alleviate overcrowded programs in juvenile courts.
A commonly agreed fact is that the state and the community both are responsible for pushing children toward delinquent behavior and therefore it would be unfair to just punish the child without getting to know why the child committed the offence. A child can be a productive architect or a destructive delinquent or a murderer depending on the environment they are brought up in and the expectations developed upon him by family and society. You can draw a wonderful drawing on a piece of paper or you can smudge it and throw it in the dust been the same case with juveniles.
Other models of justice like retributive tend to focus on punishment of the offender and forgets the victim but restorative justice offers reconciliation with the victim party and thereby ending the series of revengeful activities by the victims. It also makes it easier for a juvenile to blend back into the community and be accepted as there often is the possibility of forgiveness by the victims and the society as a whole, restorative justice hence seeks to increase opportunities for youth to remain in the community. The goals here are to limit the opportunities for juveniles to reoffend and strengthen rather than sever connections to their community.
Restorative justice is also more effective because it seeks to find root cause of delinquent behavior and correct or treat. This ensures the actions is not repeated again If a juvenile stole because of poverty they can be made an award of the court where the state would cater for their needs therefore there would be no need for them to steal again.
While retributive justice tends to be quite harsh not only with juveniles but with adults, restorative justice is milder and psychological studies have proven that human beings more so adolescents tend to respond better to gentle but firm treatment rather than cruel treatment. Techniques in retributive justice such as incarceration will creates the risk of an unhealthy peer set, cost is high for the level of risk, opportunity for repaying the injured party and society is severely decreased, and segregation from conventional community members is improved. Although incarceration may limit opportunity for offending in the short term, the effects may intensify the risk of future offending therefore restorative justice works better in the long run.
Schools in the USA are using restorative ideology as an option to the strict, zero-tolerance relationships that have been unsuccessful in providing a climate favorable for educating learners. Safer Saner Schools is one instance. A program of the International program of Restorative Practices, it is engaged in a pilot plan in a middle school and two public high schools in Missouri. The product of this continuing program, begun in 1998, has been a noticeable improvement in the learning climate and a noticeable decrease in disciplinary referrals, detentions, suspensions and destructive event. The program taught teachers to share and draw out sentiments and to ask questions so as to express a sense of community and mutual responsibility. The teachers got to know how to use circles and other influential community building practices. Restorative principles have transformed the culture in these schools among teachers, administrators and students (Misky, 2008).
Restorative justice gives the juvenile delinquents a second chance as well as a opportunity to give back to the community particularly through community service while at the same time instilling a sense of responsibility. Members of the community will often take this as a sign that one is repentant and remorseful and make it easier for one to be forgiven and accepted back into the society.
Juveniles are young and they have the rest of their lives to become good citizens if they muddle up along the way the restorative justice systems will help them comprehend their responsibility as well as the people who they hurt. Restorative justice will make the society a better place by helping the offender and the victim.
Restorative justice also enables the development of stronger alliances among society and juvenile justice agencies and professionals.
Victims are, of course, those most directly affected by crime. While displeasure over the last couple of years has fueled reforms in victim's rights, the program is still crime based. Once the investigation has been finished, the victim is redundant. They have the right to be notified in relation to aspects of their case but they are, for the most part, mere audience in an adversarial procedure which encourages offenders to deny any responsibility. They may have the chance to testify in court but unfortunately you may have to be cross examined by a intimidating professional trained to discredit them. The procedure emotionally draining, further oppressing them and their loved ones. For victims, restorative justice is a different paradigm. Though it may be set off by a disobedience of the law, restorative justice is concerned with the damage caused to them. Instead of being adversarial it is agreement based and offenders who take part must acknowledge their crime. So, arguing those involved - victim, delinquent and community - are focused on mending the harm done. Rather than being further oppressed by the procedure, the victim has an opportunity to get answers and closure. They can face up to the offender in a safe environment and communicate the effect of the offence on them and their loved ones. In many restorative programs, the victim has an express say in what the delinquent need to do to make amends. The contentment and healing those victims go through, through restorative justice has the capability to meet their needs in a way that a guilty judgment and time served simply would not. Perhaps astoundingly, this is proving to be true even in the most atrocious crimes.
Current studies of victim offender discussion in crimes of brutal violence reveal that when injured partys, or survivors of victims, decide to dialogue with incarcerated deliquents, 96% to 100% were "very satisfied" with the experience and 82% rated it as a life-changing experience (Umbreit, Coats, Vos, & Blown, 2003, pp. 18-21).
Restorative justice is not without its own downside, which include: Ignorance of the concepts by legal, social work, criminal justice professionals, discussion of the notion of crime is not common, whether crime is seen as action in disobedience of state laws or breach of person's rights, worrying about whether actual justice can be attained outside the court system or rule of law isn't followed, it's a worry that in practice restorative justice may make our criminal justice system unsuccessful, nourish abuse of power, promote false restoration or even generate greater injustice .
How can restorative justice be integrated into the mainstream? We must practice restorative justice - in our home, church, school, business, and interpersonal relationship and as volunteers in society. People familiar with healing will hardly be contented with retaliation. We must document rehabilitative justice. The public as well as public policy makers rely on both testimonies as well as statistics to make their choices. We need encouraging narratives to show the failures of the retributive system and the benefits and advantages of restorative justice and we need good studies with stories that back up hard data. Perhaps most critically, we must publicize restorative justice. As professionals in the field have noted, "relevant scientific and practical work does not always get to the public" (Bazemore, & Walgrave, 1996, p. 500). However, by pursuing a plan of purposeful communication appropriate to various key groups, we can encourage restorative justice.