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Beyond Restorative Justice

Herman, Susan
June 4, 2015

Source: (2001) In, Brian Williams (ed.), Reparation And Victim-Focused Social Work (pp 34-44). London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Restorative justice holds great promise as a set of values which promote healing and strengthen the social bonds which serve as the foundation of our communities. Empathy, mutual understanding, restitution and accountability are key principles of restorative justice. A high priority is placed on maintaining or restoring individual dignity. Crime is not depersonalized. It is viewed as an experience between individuals, in the midst of a community. All three – victims, offenders, and communities – should recognize how the crime has harmed each, and all three should attempt to rebuild social ties and recreate “right relationships.”
There is also a role for society at large, represented by the state, in repairing the harm done to victims. Currently, only the state has the authority to marshal the resources necessary to address some of victims’ long-term, complicated problems. The day care, the employment counseling, the substance abuse treatment, or the long range housing needs of victims, usually cannot be adequately addressed by offenders and communities alone. In such cases, society as a whole should be asked to play a role. From a victims’ perspective, one of the reasons the traditional criminal justice system is inadequate is that it does not have authority to call upon the full range of governmental resources necessary to meet the needs of victims. Restorative justice practitioners, in a commendable effort to humanize the justice system and keep the state in the background, may make the same mistake. Therefore, we need to create a parallel system of justice for victims.


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