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Listening to Victims–A Critique of Restorative Justice Policy and Practice in the United States

Mika, Harry
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) Federal Probation. 68(1): 32-38.

The role of the victim in the criminal justice process has historically been pushed aside, but focus on the victim continues to increase. The development of restorative justice practices was seen as a victim-oriented approach, yet conjecture remains about the impact and outcomes of these practices for victims. One of the core objectives of the Listening Program was to create a plan for more responsive restorative justice programs and better outcomes for victims. Phase I of the Listening Project involved listening sessions with 120 victims and victim advocates in 7 States during 1999 and 2000. Phase II of the Listening Project involved a 2-day meeting of listening site representatives, victims, victim advocates, victim services personnel, and restorative justice practitioners to identify areas of agreement and concern regarding restorative justice. Overall, participant victims expressed feelings of injustice, disrespect, exclusion, lack of empathy, and irrelevance as a result of the restorative justice process. There was a sense that although victim input and collaboration are touted as central to restorative justice practices, the voices of victims were not heard during the process. The results of the 2-day meeting produced a 10-task action plan to more fully incorporate a victim-centered approach into restorative justice practices. These 10 tasks include responsiveness to the diverse population of victims, mandatory training in victim sensitivity for restorative justice practitioners, and the development of a partnership between restorative justice practitioners and victims. The next step for the Listening Project will be to collaboratively propose standards of restorative justice and strategies for effective evaluation. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


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