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OPINION: Restorative Justice: The Next Big Step to Change the Justice System in America

By Hannah Oommen

Ruin, Erik. Restorative Justice What it is and is not. Rethinking Schools, https://rethinkingschools.org/articles/restorative-justice/. Accessed 8 Oct. 2023


Over the past year, the citizens of America have encountered millions of cases of people being prosecuted for crimes with a variety of punishments, from the death penalty to harsh fines. Now, it's time for us, as a younger generation, to change and shape our justice system into a more humane structure.


In the United States Constitution, the Eighth Amendment clearly states, "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted". Yet, many Americans will testify that the justice system is currently strict and unforgiving. But what would happen if there was a new way to help solve this problem? A unique system that was more merciful to the guilty and guided them back into identifying with their community, making them less likely to do further harm. This system is called Restorative Justice.


Restorative Justice is defined as "Seeking to examine the harmful impacts of a crime and then determine what can be done to repair that harm while holding the person who caused it accountable for their actions".


Albert Eglash is responsible for creating the term Restorative Justice in his article in 1959, "Creative Restitution: Its Roots in Psychiatry, Religion, and Law." The most significant difference in Restorative Justice compared to other forms of justice is that it looks beyond the simple violation of law and investigates the impacts the crime has caused.


According to the Hartford Justice Center Organization, three main pillars are necessary for effective Restorative Justice. The first pillar is acknowledging the negative impacts on the community due to what occurred or could have occurred. The second is an obligation, meaning that the guilty have understood the necessity to understand the negative consequences their actions have caused. Finally, engagement, like a jury, Restorative Justice, has the primary parties affected by the crime decide what justice is required. These parties usually include the community (typically a group of volunteers), the victim, and the offender of the crime.

The Restorative Justice Council contains statistics supporting the efficiencies of Restorative Justice: "Restorative Justice led to a 14% reduction in the reoffending rate.

  • 85% of victims were satisfied with meeting their offender face to face, and 78% would recommend it to others.

  • 62% of victims felt that Restorative Justice had made them feel better after an incident of crime while just 2% felt it had made them feel worse" (MOJ).

Two primary injuries are being distinguished in Restorative Justice: Resulting and Contributing. Resulting injuries are the consequences of the crime or its aftermath. Contributing injuries are actions that have happened in the past that affected the offender into causing the crime. These injuries are vital to comprehend when undergoing a discussion with the offender. We can focus on healing and reintegration, reduced recidivism, community engagement, and empowerment by introducing Restorative Justice in place of the current punitive justice system. This could result in one significant step for the youth of America to become a more merciful and compassionate society.


Sources:

“MOJ Evaluation of Restorative Justice.” MoJ Evaluation of Restorative Justice | Restorative Justice Council, restorativejustice.org.uk/resources/moj-evaluation-restorative-justice#:~:text=85%25%20of%20victims%20were%20satisfied,had%20made%20them%20feel%20worse. Accessed 9 Aug. 2023. .

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