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4 Tutorials that teach Restorative Justice
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Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice

Author: Marlene Johnson
Description:

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand that restorative justice is one of many conflict resolution methods, and is specifically an application of conflict resolution techniques to criminal activity and its aftermath

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Tutorial

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Typically, whenever there is a criminal act, an offense, some sort of wrongdoing, it is prosecuted through our court systems. Now restorative justice is a form of justice that focuses on the needs of victims, members of a community that could have been impacted by a crime, and the offenders, rather than just punishing the offender. I'm Marlene. And today, I'd like to talk with you about restorative justice.

So an offense has been committed. Now an offense is a criminal act that may bring an individual into contact with the justice system. Many times, these acts are more petty crimes, such as graffiti or shoplifting, although they might be more serious crimes, as well. And the focus in restorative justice is accountability.

Now accountability is acknowledgment and responsibility for a given action and its consequences. And that would be on the part of the offenders. So let's step back and look at restorative justice and give that a definition.

Restorative justice is a group of conflict-resolution/ADR processes used in the wake of a criminal act intended to produce results beyond those allowed by the court system. So we're going beyond what you do in a court system, which is focused on punishing the offender. So how does this work? How does restorative justice work?

Well, you bring together the victims of the crime, and community members who may have been impacted by the crime-- they are also considered victims-- and the offender. They all come together in a room. And this is facilitated by some sort of a conflict resolver-- a facilitator-- whose focus is to get these three parties into dialogue.

And the victim and the community members who've been impacted will have an opportunity to share the impact of how the offense impacted them. And the offender will have to hear that. Now the offender also has a chance to talk about his or her motivations, what they did, the reactions to what they're hearing.

So this dialogue between these three parties will lead to some sort of restitution. The goal here is accountability. So together, they will decide what would be an appropriate act here for the offender to give restitution to these victims and community members that have been impacted.

So that is the whole approach of restorative justice. So the focus is accountability. Now, it's not on the state or abstract legal principles. In fact, the whole theory is that crime is really an offense against individuals in the community, not against the state.

So what about the success rate? Restorative justice programs have been shown to have an enormously good success rate. Victim satisfaction is higher than in most cases. And the offender's accountability and also not repeating their crime is shown to be more successful than when many of these things are processed through traditional court systems.

Let me give you a couple of examples. I know here in Minneapolis the Hennepin County Court System, as well as the police, will refer juvenile offenses to restorative-justice programs. And these would be offenses that maybe would fall under more of a petty crimes. Could be vandalism, graffiti, shoplifting, perhaps setting a fire to the grass at a public park-- some kid might consider a prank, which really is a violation-- of crime. Those kinds of things will be referred to a restorative-justice program.

Once again, the juveniles who've committed this will sit down with the victims, who will talk about the impact-- for example, if it's been shoplifting. They'll talk about that impact. And community members will show up to talk about how the theft in a store in their neighborhood has impacted them in the community and their feelings about this.

And that's one example of a restorative-justice program right here in the Twin Cities. Now, that one is with juveniles. I do know that there are a number of restorative programs that also work with adults. And upon occasion, restorative justice has been used successfully in crimes of a more serious nature.

So thank you for being part of this tutorial. And I look forward to seeing you next time.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Restorative Justice

    A group of conflict resolution/ADR processes used in the wake of a criminal act intended to produce results beyond those allowed by the court system.

  • Offense

    A criminal act that may bring a minor into contact with the juvenile justice system.

  • Accountability

    Acknowledgement and responsibility for a given action and its consequences.