According to a study published in the Western Criminology Review, victims were unanimous in their view that the most important expectation they had of court professionals was to be treated with respect. His expectation was manifested especially in the voiced desire to be trusted with information about the crime, the offender and about what options the court might consider in responding to their case. A second priority for victims was the opportunity to be heard, and to have input into the court's decision-making process. Their need for restitution was important, but if these initial needs for respect, information and input were addressed, restitution decreased in urgency.
Interestingly, most victims expressed little interest in punishment for its own sake, but were more concerned that juvenile justice professionals follow through with their commitment to hold offenders accountable with regard to restitution or other reparative actions.
On the other hand, most judges seem surprised to hear a strong victim interest in offender rehabilitation. Some participants, including victims of violent crimes, had also gotten personally involved in offender treatment programs.
“The needs of victims,” according to Howard Zehr, widely considered the godfather of restorative justice in the United States, and author of “Changing Lenses,” “are for information, validation, vindication, restitution, testimony, safety and support. These are the starting points of justice.”
Recently, the Restorative Justice Partnership Initiative, a partnership between Conflict Solutions Center, District Attorney’s office, its Victim Witness Assistance Program, Public Defender’s office and Probation Department finalized guidelines for referrals to restorative justice from Juvenile Court in Santa Barbara County. This will give victims of crime more options on how their cases are handled, and for some who request it, an opportunity to be involved in determining the consequences of the juvenile crime committed against them.
The restorative justice option is voluntary, so all parties must be willing to participate. That means the juvenile must be willing to accept responsibility for his or her actions, and face those they harmed.
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