For many years, the justice systems have used imprisonment as the primary source of punishment for those found guilty of an offense. Once found guilty, the criminals are sentenced, the verdict is believed to suits the kind of crime the offender has committed (Johnstone & Van Ness, 2013). Despite the completion of their term limits, most freed prisoners find it difficult to blend into the society and live in harmony with their communities; as a result, the x-convicts feel isolated, discriminated, and hence resume their old ways. In an attempt by criminologists and psychologist to bridge this gap, there was an introduction of restorative justice into the justice system. Therefore, this essay is aimed at exploring how juvenile offenders are viewed in respect to restorative justice.
Restorative Justice among Juvenile Offenders
The objective of restorative justice was and is still is to help rehabilitate offenders by reconciling them with the victims of their heinous acts as well as the community, thus making it easy for the offenders to go back to the community and live in harmony with everyone (Jonson & Cullen, 2015). Juvenile offenders are minors mainly between the ages of 10 to 17 who have been found guilty of breaking the law. Although these young boys and girls are underage, the justice system must come up with a way of punishing their acts to be fair. According to the constitution, minors are considered as those members of the society who can be easily swayed and therefore cannot be held accountable and punished as an adult (Johnstone & Van Ness, 2013). According to research, a person's community and social condition influence their behaviors. Human behavior is, therefore, an interplay between an individual's biological and community conditions. Children are most affected by these factors; therefore, before deciding on a punishment that befits a minor who has committed a specific crime, these factors must be considered.
A psychologist has found that it is easier to rehabilitate and transform the behaviors of a young person as compared to an adult. Young minds are still developing and if put under different circumstances and exposed to the required stimuli can change and in the process change individual behaviors. The justice system introduced restorative justice when dealing with minor offenders to help rehabilitate them and return them to society to become better citizens.
Process and significance of Restorative Justice for Juvenile Offenders
To participate in juvenile restorative justice, juvenile criminals must first admit to the offense and accept to corporate fully with the justice system. Those offenders who are involved with gangs, drugs, murder, and contempt of court are never considered for this program. After admitting to having committed a crime, the juvenile offender then signs an agreement document in which he /she promised to adhere to the juvenile restorative process and accept any terms and conditions therein (Crawford & Newburn, 2013). The intake authorities meet with the juvenile offender together with their families to explain the voluntary nature of the mediation process, which they are to spearhead. The authorities then meet with the victims and explain to them the voluntary nature of the mediation process and the offender's commitment to see it through. The juvenile mediators then listen to recollections of both the victim and the offender separately after which they appoint independent members of the community and come up with the framework and timeline for the mediation process.
The mediators then create a formal atmosphere where the victim and the offender meet, during this meeting, the victim is allowed to give his account of the crime committed and the impact the crime had on him individually as well as the effect it hard on his/her family. The juvenile offender is then given time to describe clearly, how he/she believes that, his/her acts may have affected the victim and show how remorseful they are for their actions and give a commitment to change (Bazemore & Schiff, 2015). After listening and understanding each other's points of view, the offender and the victim decide on the best form of punishment to suit, the crime as well as financial retributions to cover for any damage caused. The two then signs a binding contract and agree to adhere to this contract, the agreement between the two offers retribution to the victim and rehabilitation of the offender, as they will see how their actions affect other people and thus decide to change and live harmoniously with others.
Even though the process of restorative justice may differ from one jurisdiction to another, many countries have begun to embrace this system. According to a study conducted to investigate the success of the process in Texas, restorative justice among juvenile offenders has significantly improved restitution rates and reduced recidivism. Other studies have also shown that restorative justice has significantly increased victim satisfaction, better payoffs, lawyer recidivism as well as enhanced juvenile offenders accountability (Bazemore & Schiff, 2015). In another study, involving Six Oregon counties in which the researchers studied the impact of mediation programs involved in restorative justice program reported an overall positive feeling on both the victim and the offender and reduced tension and fear among them.
In summary, restorative justice is a critical component in rehabilitating and integrating juvenile offenders into society. Majority of freed prisoners especially juvenile develop related psychological complications and finds it cumbersome to blend in the community; hence, they require proper rehabilitation process.
Bazemore, G., & Schiff, M. (2015). Restorative community justice: Repairing harm and transforming communities. Routledge.
Crawford, A., & Newburn, T. (2013). Youth offending and restorative justice. Willan.
Johnstone, G., & Van Ness, D. (Eds.). (2013). Handbook of restorative justice. Routledge.
Jonson, C. L., & Cullen, F. T. (2015). Prisoner reentry programs. Crime and justice, 44(1), 517-575.
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