Article Review: Restorative Justice
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“Restorative Practices: From the Early Societies to the 1970s” is an article by Dr. Theo Gavrielides, which discusses the issue of restorative justice and its place in history. Over the past few years, scholars in the criminal justice field have increasingly questioned the place of restorative justice in human history. They point out the possibility that it has been made up in the course of modern history and does not have roots in the past. In the article, restorative justice is specifically defined as “an ethos with practical goals, among which to restore harm by including affected parties in a (direct or indirect) encounter and a process of understanding through voluntary and honest dialogue” (Gavrielides, 2011). This paper analyses the concept of restorative justice and its value in the society.
In the article under consideration, Gavrielide (2011) states that the concept of restorative justice goes back as far as the early human civilizations in the acephalous societies that were not organized as states but rather as kinship communities. At those times, justice was considered as a practice of restoring harm by making the offender reconsider their actions and pay for them by apologizing, returning a stolen item, or serving the community. The basis of this kind of justice is the idea that crime is committed against the individual and the community and thus, must be repaid at the grass root level. The fact that a crime is an offense that affects the individual or the community also means that justice is expected to repay that harm.
Another finding of this article is that in the acephalous societies, the input and fate of the victim was of paramount importance in the administering the justice. The offender had to apologize to the victim and offer the reparation to both the victim and community. In this way, Gavrielides (2011) emphasizes that justice nvolved not only the punishment for the crime but also restoration of the harm and guarantee of the victim’s peace. It is stated that even the murderers were offered some kind of arrangement, within which they could directly pay for their offenses to the society and the victim’s family.
In addition, it can be stated that restorative justice is a good mechanism of a crime reduction or rather breaking the cycle of crime. By offering the offender an opportunity to communicate with the victim, understand how he/she feels about what was done, and come to an understanding on the conditions for forgiveness, there is a good chance that the offender will truly reform and refrain from committing another crime in the future. The victim is also provided with an opportunity to express their hurt to the offender who is responsible for their predicament finding a way to get over the pain and move forward with their life.
In the practice of restorative justice, it is stated that forgiveness is the key. The reason behind the dialogue between the victim and offender is that they are enabled to express their feelings and offer an apology before offering reparation for the offence. The victim is able to show how they feel about the crime and also plays a role in choosing the kind of punishment that would satisfy their sense of justice. Braithwaite (2002) notes that the current criminal justice system considers a criminal offense as the one committed against the state and thus, the victim is not given any consideration in the administration of justice. As such, the idea of getting forgiveness and ensuring that the victim’s sense of justice is satisfied or that the offender apologizes and fully realizes the gravity of their offense in the victim’s eyes is a distant illusion. The present criminal justice system puts the states and its criminal laws ahead of the personal needs of the victim and the offender, thus, blindsiding the concept of justice as known in restorative justice syystems. Therefore, one may conclude that while pursuing restorative justice, there is a possibility that the parties involved will not be satisfied given the interference of the state laws and the insistence on incarceration even when the victim is willing to forgive the offender.
The Bible is consistent with forgiveness and paying for one’s crimes. Generally, it can be stated that criminal offences are expected to be forgiven in the event that the perpetrator is willing to accept their mistake and apologize for the offence. For example, in Luke 19:1-10, Zaccheaus, a tax collector and considerable sinner who is forgiven for his sins based on his need to come clean. He is asked by Jesus to return all the stolen property and apologize to those he had wronged. Another example is the “The Parable of the Lost Son” found in Luke 15:11-32. In this story, the youngest son misappropriated his share of wealth, but his father forgave him and accepted him back in the family despite his great mistake.
These stories imply that as long as one is willing to accept their mistakes, apologize, and repair the harm they have previously caused by their offences, they can and should be forgiven. Jesus specifically emphasized on the need to apologize for the wrong deeds and refrain from being hard at forgiving those who wrong us.
Nowadays, criminal offenses are considered as acts against the state and eliminate the participation of the victim in the administration of justice. As a result, even the most affected of victims fail to get closure of their cases and, in some cases, even the incarceration of the offender does not bring them a peace of mind. Thus, the need for restorative justice is rightfully emphasized in Gavrielides’s article “Restorative Practices: From the Early Societies to the 1970s”, for the sake of both the victim and the offender.
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