Restorative justice is exactly what the title says; restorative justice. It wants to restore justice, but in what ways exactly? While restorative justice is used widely through both the criminal justice system and the education system, it is easier to describe for the purpose of this post in terms of the criminal justice system.
According to Jane C. Murphy with the Baltimore Sun, restorative justice is an approach that aims to repair the harm caused by a crime instead of simply punishing the perpetrator. What this looks like is that the offender and the victim of the crime sit together in a room, not alone but with one or more other people there to ensure the safety and support of both individuals, and talk through the crime that was committed. Both of the individuals hear each other’s side of the story, how the crime impacted and influenced the victim and why the offender may have committed the crime. By doing this, it starts the conversation on how the offender can take responsibility for their actions and learn from them at the same time. What our criminal justice system is doing currently with many offenders is sentencing them quickly and throwing them into prison, no matter what the crime was. This doesn’t allow for any time for reflection and learning on the part of the offender. Just being thrown into prison with hundreds, even thousands, of other criminals is taking ten steps backward in regards to taking responsibility for what was done.
If every justice system throughout not only the United States, but the world, would adopt this concept in their proceedings, it would not only help keep people out of prison, but also help the victims find solace and healing in what happened. For now, small steps are being taken toward this. Community Circles is one of those small steps, not only is it helping the community get involved in the justice system and helping the offenders be accountable but it is also reducing recidivism back into prison.~Kasi