Is restorative justice enough?

What if we lived in a world where there were no prisons? Sure, this is difficult for most people to grasp, a community where criminals can be integrated to society and help them restore their self-esteem, repair relationships destroyed by their crimes, help them understand perspectives and become accountable to their actions in a healthy manner. That seems like a good notion for something very alluring; justice

While long-term incarceration might be important for serial criminals (of course, we can’t let them go in to the society, just to do it again), it is important to acknowledge crimes done by young adults or others, one time incidents, where we can negotiate alternative mechanisms to help them, rather than punishing them by disintegration and allowing an unhealthy prison environment to cloud their thoughts and corrupt the little compassion they have in redemption.

This is where restorative justice comes in. A modern concept of peacemaking mechanisms, as a problem solving approach to help criminals restore the harm they have done, assist in building relationships with people who had huge impacts in their lives, allowing them to understand perspectives of the victim, their families and making them more accountable to deal with their crimes by allowing them to build bridges for a better future.

An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.

Mohandas Gandhi

Ideally, four fundamentals are required in making the restorative justice work. All affected parties and stakeholders should be involved to encounter each other, allowing the criminals to take responsibility for their crimes and its impacts and then allowing them to heal through integration and dialogue.  While this can be done at different levels (maybe with one mediator and the victim, leading to groups of homogenous criminals and victims), it is important to focus on practices of how these crimes can be less stigmatized as shameful and unforgiving. For example, it’s interesting to understand how experts in the field of architecture and design, can model spaces to engage communities and integrate restorative justice in order to create a healthy justice system compared to the punitive incarceration in prisons.

This can be a constructive way to bring peace and justice than the retributive practice of incarcerating criminals for every little crime, in overcrowded spaces with limited resources.  While this might sound too adolescent, we need to move away from our rituals of unforgiving, disapproving and shaming the criminal and their families for the rest of their lives. To better bring justice, we need to give them the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and work towards a way to restore what they have done. This can help in the healing process for the victims and their families. While it does not undo their crimes, and might be seen as a belligerent practice for victims and their families, it still provides closure for the victims and helps them reach clemency. At the end of the day, forgiveness and freedom give us peace and the courage to move forward.

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