Welcome to my Crime and Justice blog! I am a 19 year old criminal justice student at the University of Winnipeg. I advocate for prisoners' rights, human rights, equality and criminal justice/prison system reforms.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A justice system that focuses on the victim, as well as the offender

When a crime occurs, it does not affect just one person, but also impacts their family members and the entire community.
This was personally made clear to my family in the fall of 2008 when our pickup was stolen in the middle of the night. Though it was parked in front of our home in Edmonton and under a street light, neither we nor our neighbours heard anything.
The truck was recovered near Alberta Beach, but was written off due to a combination of damage sustained and the age of the vehicle. We received $3,700 for the loss, but our new second-hand truck cost $11,000 -- a financial hit that we had not anticipated.
The police and our insurance company treated us professionally and fairly, but still a lot of time was taken to talk to everyone. Time was needed to drive an hour to Alberta Beach to see if there were any personal items to be recovered, as well as to look for a new vehicle.
But the impact of this criminal victimization did not consist only of the property damage and the financial loss. It also included psychological and emotional after-effects.
My wife wondered if we had been targeted or singled out. Why was our vehicle stolen and not other trucks parked on the same street?
We will never know as no one has ever been arrested or charged.
Steering wheel clubs have since sprouted on vehicles on our block. They may be effective, but they are also a reminder of the communal loss of a sense of safety and security.
Shortly after the theft, I began work as restorative justice manager at the Mediation and Restorative Justice Centre (MRJC). Here, I have learned that my experience is shared by most other victims of crime.
Unanswered questions, emotional scars and physical symptoms like sleeping problems are common results of having been a victim.
But these results do not have to be permanent.
In the last 18 months, I have been witness to the power of restorative justice in cases ranging from road rage to a manslaughter case involving drunk driving causing death.
Restorative justice recognizes that crime is more than a violation of the law and the state. Crime is a violation of people and relationships and these violations create obligations.
Restorative justice's central focus is on victim needs and offender responsibility for repairing the harm that has occurred.
At MRJC we provide an opportunity for an interested victim, offender and community to meet in a safe setting to address what happened and why. The discussion includes the harm caused to the victim and how the offender may be held accountable.
The dialogue also works to an outcome that is meaningful to both the victim and offender and redresses the harm caused to the victim.
April 18 to 24 is National Victims of Crime Awareness Week. It is an opportunity to raise awareness about victim issues and about the services and laws in place to help victims and their families.
Victims of crime and their families deserve support from their community. Victims of crime need to know that they have a voice in our criminal justice system and that there are laws in place to help them.
Restorative justice can play an important role in Canada's justice system because of its focus on the need for every victim of crime to be treated with compassion and respect for their dignity.
By involving victims and the community, along with offenders, in addressing crime, restorative justice offers the following benefits to victims:
- -The process allows victims to tell their own story about the impact of the harm they have received and have their questions answered directly by the offender;
- -It gives victims a direct and personal voice and participation in the criminal justice system;
- -The restorative justice dialogue allows an offender to acknowledge responsibility and accountability directly to the victim;
- -The process also creates an opportunity for recognition of impact of harm to the community and hope for healing, closure and transformation to the victim;
- -Restorative justice aims to put key decisions in the hands of those most affected by crime.
This week has been an opportunity for all of us, citizens and those working in the criminal justice system, to re-commit to ensuring that victims are involved in the process and come out satisfied.
Harvey Voogd is manager of restorative justice programs at the Mediation and Restorative Justice Centre. The Centre provides programs and services based on restorative justice and community mediation principles.

I think restorative justice is such a great idea and feel it should be used more often as a sanction, as opposed to over-relying on incarceration, which overcrowds prisons further. Retributive justice which focuses only on punishment and revenge, is largely ineffective, as it fails to address the underlying root causes of criminal behaviour and offending. Prisons have also been proven to not deter or reduce crime. If we want to do what will be in society's best interests, we need to think of long term solutions to prevent and reduce crime, not quick fixes such as prisons. Long term, means utilizing rehabilitation and treatment programs as well as restorative justice. 

No comments:

Post a Comment