Howard Zehr's book Changing Lenses—A New Focus for Crime and Justice , first published in , is credited with being "groundbreaking",  as well as being one of the first to articulate a theory of restorative justice. By the second half of the s, the expression "restorative justice" had become popular, evolving to widespread usage by It offers a different response, namely the use of restorative solutions to repair the harm related to conflict, crime, and victimization.
The development of restorative justice in continental Europe, especially the German speaking countries, Austria, Germany and Switzerland, is somewhat different from the Anglo-Saxon experience. For example, victim-offender mediation is just one model of restorative justice, but in the present European context it is the most important one. Restorative justice may be moving towards restorative practice.
In October , the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted a recommendation to member states which recognised "the potential benefits of using restorative justice with respect to criminal justice systems" and encouraged member states to "develop and use restorative justice". Internationally, nations collectively endeavored to contribute to the Prison Fellowship International set up by Charles Colson in , which is aimed to help the current and former insiders and their family members beyond America.
The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission shows how restorative justice can be used to address system-wide offenses that affect broad swaths of a group or a society. In criminal cases, victims can testify about the crime's impact upon their lives, receive answers to questions about the incident, and participate in holding the offender accountable.
Meanwhile, offenders can tell their story of why the crime occurred and how it has affected their lives. They are given an opportunity to compensate the victim directly — to the degree possible. A courtroom process might employ pretrial diversion, dismissing charges after restitution. In serious cases, a sentence may precede other restitution.
In the community, concerned individuals meet with all parties to assess the experience and impact of the crime. Offenders listen to victims' experiences, preferably until they are able to empathize with the experience. Then they speak to their own experience: how they decided to commit the offense.
A plan is made for prevention of future occurrences, and for the offender to address the damage to the injured parties. All agree.
Community members hold the offender s accountable for adherence to the plan. While restorative justice typically involves an encounter between the offender and the victim, some organizations, such as the Mennonite Central Committee Canada, emphasize a program's values over its participants.
This can include programs that only serve victims or offenders for that matter , but that have a restorative framework. Indigenous groups are using the restorative justice process to try to create more community support for victims and offenders, particularly the young people.
Besides serving as an alternative to civil or criminal trial, restorative justice is also thought to be applicable to offenders who are currently incarcerated. By repairing the harm to the relationships between offenders and victims, and offenders and the community that resulted from the crime, restorative justice seeks to understand and address the circumstances which contributed to the crime. This is thought to prevent recidivism that is, that the offender repeats the undesirable behavior once the offender is released. The potential for restorative justice to reduce recidivism is one of the strongest and most promising arguments for its use in prisons.
However, there are both theoretical and practical limitations, which can make restorative justice infeasible in a prison environment.
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These include: difficulty engaging offenders and victims to participate in mediation; the controversial influence of family, friends, and the community; and the prevalence of mental illness among prisoners. In social work cases, impoverished victims such as foster children are given the opportunity to describe their future hopes and make concrete plans to transition out of state custody in a group process with their supporters.
Restorative justice has also been implemented in schools. This approach develops and fosters empathy, as participating parties must come to understand the needs of all stakeholders in order for the conflict to be fully rectified. Behavioral problems stemming from grief, for example, may be recognized and acknowledged within restorative justice programs; as a result, the party would be referred to a counselor to receive grief counseling.
By approaching student discipline with restorative justice in the forefront, conflicts may be resolved to meet the funding needs of the school district- by way of reduced student absenteeism, rehabilitate the offending party, and to restore justice and make whole the wronged party. Collectivity and empathy are further developed by having students participate in restorative justice circles in administering roles such as mediators or jurors.
Restorative justice requires a form of meeting between the offender and the victim. A Cochrane review stressed the need for the offender to meet the victim face-to-face. Many restorative justice systems, especially victim-offender mediation and family group conferencing, require participants to sign a confidentiality agreement. These agreements usually state that conference discussions will not be disclosed to nonparticipants. The rationale for confidentiality is that it promotes open and honest communication.
Victim-offender dialogue VOD , also called victim-offender mediation , victim-offender conferencing, victim-offender reconciliation, or restorative justice dialogue , is usually a meeting, in the presence of one or two trained facilitators, between victim and offender.
This system generally involves few participants, and often is the only option available to incarcerated offenders.
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Victim Offender Dialogue originated in Canada as part of an alternative court sanction in a Kitchener, Ontario case involving two accused vandals who met face-to-face with their many victims. Family group conferencing FGC has a wider circle of participants than VOD, adding people connected to the primary parties, such as family, friends and professionals.
Fiji uses this form of mediation when dealing with cases of child sexual assault. While it may be seen as beneficial to involve the victim's family in the process, there are multiple issues stemming from this. For example, the vast majority of offenders are known to the victims in these cases.
In a Fijian context, the notion of family extends wider than that of the normative Western idea. Therefore, involving the family in these cases may become complicated, for the family may not necessarily side with the victim or the process itself could cause rifts in within the clan. Furthermore, the process as a whole places much emphasis on the victim forgiving the offender, as opposed to the offender making amends with the victim.
Overall, the current process has the potential to cause great trauma and revictimise the victim. There are many different names and procedures of operation for these community-based meetings.
Restorative Circles refers to restorative justice conferences in Brazil   and Hawaii ,  though can have a wider meaning in the field of restorative practices. A conference will typically include the victim, the offender and members of the local community, who have typically received some training. RC is explicitly victim-sensitive. The discussion continues until restitution is agreed; they may also see that the agreement is fulfilled. The largest restorative justice conference in history took place in the course of the reconciliation campaign that ended the blood feuds among ethnic Albanians in Kosovo , which was attended by between , and , participants.
This approach has demonstrated the capacity to enhance the safe integration of otherwise high-risk sex offenders with their community. Canada judges some sex offenders too dangerous for any form of conditional release, "detaining" them until they serve their entire sentence.
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A subsequent conviction often leads to designation as a "Dangerous Offender". Prior to , many such offenders were released without any support or observation beyond police surveillance. Between and , CoSA assisted with the integration of well over such offenders. CoSA projects now exist in every Canadian province and every major urban centre.
CoSA projects are also operational in several U.
Current Issues in Criminal Justice
Sentencing circles sometimes called peacemaking circles use traditional circle ritual and structure to involve all interested parties. The procedure commonly works as follows: the offender applies for the intervention, a healing circle is held for the victim, a healing circle is held for the offender, a sentencing circle is held and finally, follow-up circles to monitor progress. Positive criminology and positive victimology are conceptual approaches, developed by the Israeli criminologist Natti Ronel and his research team, that are well connected to restorative justice theories and practice.
Positive criminology and victimology both place an emphasis on social inclusion and on unifying and integrating forces at individual, group, social and spiritual levels that are associated with the limiting of crime and recovery from victimization. A common understanding is that human relationships are affected more by destructive encounters than by constructive or positive ones. Positive criminology and victimology argue that a different approach is viable, based on three dimensions — social integration, emotional healing and spirituality — that constitute positive direction indicators.
Prison abolition not only calls for the eradication of cages, but also new perspectives and methodologies for conceptualizing crime, an aim that is shared by restorative justice. In an abolitionist style of restorative justice, participation is voluntary and not limited by the requirements of organizations or professionals, the process includes all relevant stakeholders and is mediated by an independent third party.