Protect and Empower the Person Harmed
International Restorative Justice Week is an eight-day commemoration event starting the third Sunday of November every year since 1996 to (1) raise awareness about the role and importance of restorative justice practices, (2) honour and promulgate the ethos of justice based on the restoration of human connections and (3) give offenders a chance to make amends, and help victims reduce their anger and feelings of powerlessness. The week is observed by diverse groups involved in restorative justice including NGOs, government departments, academic and other institutions.
This year International Restorative Justice Week is observed from the 21st till the 28th of November 2021, under the theme “Protect and Empower the Person Harmed”. In order to protect and empower through Restorative Justice, we must know a little about it.
Understanding Restorative Justice
Restorative Justice (RJ) is a movement in the fields of victimology and criminology, which acknowledges that crime causes long-term harm to individuals and communities. It asserts that the justice system repairs the harm created. Thus encouraging and permitting the affected persons (victims, offenders, observers, concerned families and community members) a collective and equal opportunity to take part in the restoration process. A process through which remorseful offenders take accountability, accept responsibility for their transgressions, particularly to their victims and the affected community.
Restorative Justice is a theoretical alternative to incarceration or statutory punishment that believes harm caused or revealed by criminal behaviour is repairable through cooperative processes that include all affected persons. It is a method for dealing with a crime that puts the needs of victims first. It looks at crime as a violation of relationships, which can be healed through communication, recognition of the harm done to those affected, and making amends. The process requires offenders to take responsibility for their actions and makes room for both victim and offender to have a say.
The 5’Rs of Restorative Justice
- Relationships – restorative justice aims to promote and maintain healthy relationships. It tries to reconnect people who have harmed each other, find common ground between them, and establish caring relationships.
- Respect – restorative justice believes in listening to others’ opinions and valuing them. If people have a place to tell their stories, they are more likely to forgive.
- Responsibility – restorative justice notes that taking responsibility is essential to being accountable for the actions taken to heal from the harm created. Taking accountability shows remorse and a willingness to make amends.
- Restoration – in restorative justice refers to the process of repairing harm done by offenders. These crimes are referred to as “victimless” crimes where no one was hurt but, the offender is still held responsible for their actions. An example of this would be shoplifting or vandalism. However, when restitution is achieved, both parties can move on with their lives.
- Reintegration – ensures that all parties involved with a crime remain included in the process. That allows everyone involved to be heard and an opportunity for healing is given.
Restorative Justice Processes
- In line with restoration is peacemaking, so while the restorative justice processes vary with the development of different models, Peacemaking Encounter (as a model) is consistent across the board. Peacemaking Encounter is a community-centred approach that brings the victim, the affected community, and the offender together to undergo the following processes:
- Victim/Offender Mediation – the victim will physically meet with their offender in a safe space, and with the help of a professional mediator (such as a social worker), discuss the offence, the impact of the offence, and allow for the mutual development of a restorative justice plan that addresses the harm caused by the said offence;
- Conferencing – ALL affected parties (victims, offenders, their families and communities, mediating facilitators) come together to discuss the problems arising from an offence that threatens the community relationships, safety and tranquillity;
- Circle of Support/Dialogue Circles – selected members in a community come together to share experiences on offences and their impacts, and find understanding, support and companions through reconciling and healing (affected parties), and preventing re-offending.
Restorative Justice Stakeholders are the victims, communities, and offenders involved in harmful behaviour. The hope is that victims’ needs are met and that harm done can be made right so that victims can thrive, communities become peaceful places, and that offenders can become successful members of society.
There are various outcomes aimed for, but the restorative justice process mainly aims to achieve:
Restitution – the offender accepting accountability for the harm and loss they may/may not have caused the victim;
Community work Service – purposely motivated role in society to help the offender acknowledge feel obligated to “make amends”. This includes, but is not limited to, mentoring, charity work, joining crime-prevention projects, etc.
Counselling – to assist the offender with overcoming the conditions which led to the offence committed, and guide the victim through healing and leading a fulfilled life;
Re-integration – the offender can go into society able to lead a productive life; the community can welcome the offender back into their environment.
When is it applicable?
- Restorative justice interventions apply to any stage of the Criminal Justice system:
- Pre-charge (before a charge is laid)
- Pre-trial (after a charge has been laid, and before the accused appears in court)
- Post-charge (after the charge, but before the plea in court)
- After the accused has been convicted, but before they are sentenced
- Post-sentence (for parole and re-integration purposes)
The benefits to Restorative Justice Processes
- Prevents re-offending.
- Gives power to the victim of a crime. Victims can then communicate their feelings and wants for punishment to the perpetrator. This helps victims feel empowered and understand better what it is like to be a victim, which leads to less post-traumatic stress symptoms and related costs.
- According to a study conducted by the United States Department of Justice, restorative justice doubles (or more) the crimes brought to justice as a diversion from criminal justice. It helps reduce the costs of criminal justice while also improving victim satisfaction and offender accountability.
- Enhance community involvement in the dispute resolution process
- Help victims and offenders live with the burden of offence-related harm.
Summary of the foundational principles of restorative justice:
- Crime causes harm and justice should focus on repairing that harm;
- The people most affected by the crime should be able to take part in its resolution;
- The responsibility of the government is to maintain order and of the community to build peace.
If you’re interested in supporting Khulisa’s restorative justice programmes, we’d love for you to get in touch with us today at www.khulisa.org.za/play-your-part/ . We can provide you with more information about our work and how you can help us support the most victims of harm through restorative justice in South Africa. To learn more, please visit our website: www.khulisa.org.za/contact-us or call 011 788 8237.
DOJ &CD Contact details: National Office:
Ms C Badenhorst, Tel: (012) 315 4572, Email: ChBadenhorst@justice.gov.za
Regional offices (Legal Services Directors):
Ms P Moodley- Director: Legal Services KwaZulu-Natal
Tel: (031) 372 3000, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr P Mthimunye- Director: Legal Services Mpumalanga
Tel: (013) 752 8393, Email: PMthimunye@justice.gov.za
Mr D.B Ramolibe- Director: Legal Services Free State
Tel: (051) 407 1800, Email: email@example.com
Ms Mokhibo Gwintsa- Director: Legal Services Eastern Cape
Tel: (043) 721 2684, Email: mailto:MGwintsa@justice.gov.za
Mr Ramathikithi: Legal Services Gauteng
Tel: (011) 332 9069, Email: SRamasodi@justice.gov.za
Ms R Tladi- Director: Legal Services Limpopo
Tel: (015) 297 5562, Email: mailto:mailto mailto:RTladi@justice.gov.za
Adv D Plaatjies- Director: Legal Services Northern Cape
Tel: (053) 839 0001, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms Seehaam Samaai- Director: Legal Services Western Cape
Tel: (021) 462 5471/2, Email: mailto:SSamaai@justice.gov.za
Ms Motshabi Sethlako Maliehe- Director: Legal Services North West
Tel: (018) 389 8302, Email: mailto:MSethlako@justice.gov.za
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