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Restorative justice is not just saying ‘Sorry’

September 6, 2010

The restorative process motivates many offenders better than a court order.  This is part of the reason for the well attested drop in the frequency of re-offending.  Johnson is right to say that many offenders need help.  ‘Making things better’ includes not only supporting victims but making it possible for offenders to make reparation by providing the above-mentioned programmes.  Individuals can help too, for example as mentors or employers. 

He is also right to imply that his young friend Charmaine is more likely to show empathy to her victim when empathy has been shown to her.  Restorative justice doesn’t guarantee this, of course, but makes it more likely.  Moreover, we should not be thinking of it only for people like Charmaine:  white-collar offenders might show more contrition and make more reparation if they came out of their boardrooms and gated communities and met their victims.

No one is suggesting ‘a whole industry being paid to organise’ victim-offender mediation.  It does need skilled handling by people who understand restorative principles;  they may be criminal justice personnel if suitably trained, but volunteers from community mediation services can also do it with proper training, support and supervision.  This could be an important step towards making restorative justice generally available.

The restorative process encourages exploration of the background of criminality (such as school exclusion in Charmaine’s case;  perhaps restorative principles could be introduced into her school), which could be fed back to those responsible for social policy.  This should be the next objective for the restorative justice movement. 


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