Outcomes – it is so important to understand what victims want out of the process. In incidents of strangers I see people shift. For example the victim that thought the juvenile was just an unsupervised tart. When the victim meets the family and learns more about the child, the victim actually has offender empathy! So clarify and clarify again why the victim is seeking restorative justice.
...Relationship Context – School settings are places where people who know each other are harmed. Sometimes the harm happens between students that don’t know each other very well. When focusing on restorative justice it is good to explore the nature of future relationship. I screened out a case once because the offender said she would do it again. She also told me that the victim deserved it and other people felt she was justified and supported her behavior. I always say Restorative Justice is about repairing the harm, not causing further harm. Sometimes people with a long history of conflict want just another place to have that conflict. This is where being VERY, VERY cautious in situations of domestic violence or partner issues is needed.
...Flexibility - each case is different. Victims experience crime differently. So often harm from the past is triggered when dealing with incidents. Allow people to express that these older hurts & wounds are opened again, but ask how to focus on healing now, with this person at this time. Keep true to the primary focus of RJ (harms, needs, obligations & engagements). Be aware that victims and offenders may have had history and that the criminal justice process it to look at only the crime. Consider how that process impacts te relationship, be flexible in addressing the harm caused by a trial or “not-guilty” plea as much as addressing the incident itself.
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