Letter: "We Already Have Restorative Justice..." (Part 2) |CITY|
Submitted by dan. on 2007-05-22 03:48.
If restorative justice is not a programme but rather a philosophy or set of values, then it is not useful to speak in terms of "having it" or "not having it." Instead, we would speak in terms of how restorative our programmes and processes are. How does one measure restorativeness?
In my last letter I reflected on the comments sometimes made that a jurisdiction has already tried restorative justice, or that it has it already. Often this is in the context of explaining why it does not work. The problem with this is that it views restorative justice as a programme rather than a philosophy or a set of values.
If we adopt the idea that it is not a programme, then it is possible to speak in terms of degrees of restorativeness. When a restorative justice programme has not accomplished its purposes, we can ask whether the intervention or service was sufficiently restorative.
In developing RJ City, we needed to create measures of restorativeness that could be used to identify opportunities for improvement. We used two kinds of measures. The first was based on principles of restorative justice, and the second on its values (see Phase 1 Final Report, pp. 10-12).
How might we do that. Let's look at the assessment questions we might draw out of the definition and principles of restorative justice. Some of these, of course, will be more relevant to particular situations than others.
1. View of crime and justice. Is crime understood to harm the community and the victim, or merely to transgress a criminal law? Is the social harmfulness of the offence addressed and not merely the wrongdoing of the offender? Does it focus on the needs created by the offence? While recognizing the danger of crime, does it also focus on the opportunities for growth afforded by the chance to repair harm and find solutions? Does it recognize the relational as well as the public dimensions of crime?
2. Community/State orientation. In a restorative response, state intervention provides a backdrop, or foundation, for extensive community involvement. It serves as a safeguard and a safety net as necessary. What is the Network’s community orientation? Does it work to build community, allow community participation in decision-making, empower and enable the community, increase its capacity, and have a bias for responding locally?
3. Processes used. Do the processes, as much as possible, include all parties, offer opportunities for constructive encounter, address the interests of all parties, ensure their physical, psychological and emotional safety and their voluntary participation, and encourage joint decision-making?
4. Outcomes sought and achieved. In the end, will people have been invited to identify and solve problems, made or received amends, had the opportunity to explain their experiences, learned the perspectives of the other parties, and become integrated back into the community?
Alternate statements of principles could certainly be used for this purpose, but you see how it becomes possible to think in terms of degrees of restorativeness, and therefore to assess programmes and practices more usefully than merely asking whether a programme is restorative or not. What difference would that make in the vandalism case discussed in Part 1? I will conclude with some observations about that tomorrow.
Let's stay in touch,
Dan Van Ness
Discuss RJ City
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