The theory of restorative justice has gained international recognition and is in fact being implemented in many countries. This theory gives the victims the chance to express to the offender their sentiments to the crime committed and the impact on their lives. It also makes the offenders accountable to what they have done, at the same time giving them a chance to comprehend the real impact of his actions and do something to correct it. It may be utilized as an alternative in the prosecution of less serious crimes (Restorative Justice Consortium, 2008).
It is based on the following assumptions: that the crime is related to the conditions in society and social relationships, crime prevention is dependent on communities taking responsibility for curing those that cause crime, that the aftermath of crime cannot be fully resolved by the parties alone, there is a need for a mediator who will help in facilitating the process, that justice measures should be flexible to the accommodate in every case the exigencies, personal needs and potential for action, that partnership and justice consist of a balanced approach, and a single objective is not allowed to rise above the others (Marshall, T., 1999).
Among those who are involved in this process are the victim/s, the offender/s, the community, government officials and statutory agencies (Marshall, T., 1999). The first step in attaining restorative justice is to give the victim/s and offender/s a chance to meet and talk over the crime and its effects. The second is for the offender/s to take responsibility for his actions and find ways of amending what he has done. The third is restoring both the victim/s and the offender/s to whole, contributing members of the society and the last step is to provide opportunities for all parties to take part in the resolution of the crime (Restorative Justice, 2007).
The objectives of restorative justice are to attend fully to the needs of the victim—material, emotional, financial and social, to prevent re-offending through the reintegration of the offenders to the community,recreate a working community that will support the rehabilitation of the offenders and the victims and provide a means of avoiding the escalation of legal justice and the costs and delays that go with it (Marshall, T., 1999). One of the the benefits that the process brings is that it is seen to reduce post-traumatic stress symptoms to the victims. It also helps them in returning to work after the encounter wth a serious crime. Research from around the world also indicated that restorative justice can susbtantially reduce re-offending among the offenders (Restorative Justice Consortium, 2008).
According to Gerry Johnstone, among the limitations of restorative justice is that it challenges the implementation of the criminal justice system. Through the restorative justice, the public may no longer expect that the justice system will straighten what is wrong and provide them protection from criminal behavior. Other limitations of criminal justice is that a large part of it relies on voluntary cooperation thus, if one party is not willing to participate, the options are reduced, worse, if none of the parties wish to participate, then no restorative justice will take place. Another limitation is the resources and skills available for the system to work. Greater community involvement requires more training and practical resources and higher education. Aside from these, social injustice and inequality could also pose a difficulty in attaining restorative justice. Social divisions may make voluntary participation less likely or less effective (Marshall, T., 1999).
The effectiveness of restorative justice is measured through research and studies on people who have gone through it (Wachtel, n.d.). There are some who conduct interviews and surveys and some who conduct actual experiments to determine the real effect of the system. However, the results that these studies have revealed are mixed, thus, the credibility of these types of measurements are still doubtful (AIC, 29 April 2004). Nevertheless, the positive effects of the system should not be disregarded in the absence of an effective tool that will measure the actual impact of the system. It should instead be improved on through conducting further studies.
Australian Institute of Criminology. (29 April 2004). AICrime Reduction Matters. Retrieved 14 May 2008, from http://22.214.171.124/search? q=cache:EoPUgywK1vEJ:www.aic.gov.au/publications/crm/crm020t.html+how+to +measure+restorative+justice&hl=tl&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=ph&client=firefox-a.
Johnstone, Gerry. (2002). Restorative Justice: Ideas, Values, Debates. United Kingdom: Willan Publishing.
Marshall, T. (1999). Restorative Justice: An Overview. Retrieved 14 May 2008, from www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs/occ-resjus.pdf.
Restorative Justice Consortium. (2008). What is Restorative Justice?. Retrieved 14 May 2008 from http://www.restorativejustice.org/intro.
Restorative Justice online. (17 November 2007). Introduction. Retrieved 14 May 2008 from http://www.restorativejustice.org/intro
Wachtel, Joshua. (n.d.). Restorative Justice: The Evidence—Report Draws Attention to RJ in the UK. Retrieved 14 May 2008 from http://126.96.36.199/search? q=cache:raSVhtRPpOoJ:www.realjustice.org/library/rjevidence.html+effectivity+of +restorative+justice&hl=tl&ct=clnk&cd=3&gl=ph&client=firefox-a