The principles of restorative justice programs on criminal justice have been specified in the Resolution of the General Assembly at its thirty-seventh plenary meeting on 24th July 2002. Restorative justice is based on the humane principles to protect both the victim and the offender. It helps the parties find the solution and decide how and why the offender must be held accountable. The offender and the victim are able to collaborate and share their views through intermediaries, which makes the process more efficient.
The development of a new – restorative – way to respond to the crime is a response to the current focus on mainly punitive justice. First of all, the latter form of justice distinguishes the lack of attention to the needs of crime victims. Many of the victims are in need of restoring the sense of security and trust in people in respect of pecuniary damage. Painful emotions – fear, grief, helplessness, distrust towards people, and self-blame can torment the victim for years. For some victims of crime, it is very important to be able to share their personal story and get answers directly from the offenders. Victims of crime generally receive double damage: firstly from the crime, and secondly – by the organization of the punitive justice, which does not allow them to resolve complex problems (Ward, Fox, & Garber, 2014). Punitive criminal justice orientation is directly related to the interpretation of crime evidence as the violation of the laws of the state not causing harm to the individuals and their relationships.
It should be noted that after a crime is committed, the public attention is usually focused on the offender. At the same time, everyone forgets about the victim and the victim’s family, who have actually suffered the most from the crime. Asking the victim for help, the prosecuting authorities solve mainly their official tasks. Raising the question of the constitutional rights of accused and convicted criminals, the punitive justice system focuses little on the violations of constitutional rights of crime victims.
Restorative justice programs are used in the analysis of the case at any stage, while following all the laws of the Criminal Code (Elliott & Gordon, 2013). To apply these programs, there should be presented irrefutable evidence and both the victim and the offender give their consent. They are both involved in the case analysis process and support all its’ circumstances. Safety is provided to the parties when the case is passed to the restorative process. If there is neither possibility nor right for the application of restorative justice, the case is immediately transferred to a trial.
According to the UN resolution, there are some set functions of restorative programs. Member states should develop principles for resolution and application of these programs and monitor compliance with the basic principles of the resolution. Both the offender and the victim are entitled to timely legal advice and all the services available to them. The parties of restorative processes are necessarily informed about their rights and responsibilities. Both sides are prohibited from forcible involvement in the participation in restorative programs. Events that occur during the process cannot be publicly disclosed without the proper authorization. If no agreement is reached between the parties, the case is remanded for the consideration of criminal authorities. Intermediaries need to be independent and not favor anyone while solving their tasks impartially. Mediators should be trained before participating in restorative processes.
Restorative justice is a new look at how society should respond to the crime. This practice was built in accordance with this view. The essence of this type of justice lies in the fact that every transgression leads to the obligations of the offender to make amends for the harm caused to the victim. The state and the social environment of the victim and the offender should create all the necessary conditions.
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The core of restorative justice programs are the meetings of the victim and the offender suggesting their voluntary participation (Zehr, 2015). These programs help the victims to restore the sense of security, provide an opportunity to share feelings that arose in connection with the criminal situation and to be heard as well as get answers to urgent questions, and finally, obtain compensation for material damage. For offenders, the meeting creates conditions for taking responsibility: the offender together with the victim decides on the amount and form of compensation.
Restorative justice programs are an alternative to the method adopted today as a punitive reaction of the state to commit a crime. First of all, the alternative to punitive justice is the restorative process of justice as an idea and a way. As for the implementation, most countries used a restorative justice program in cooperation with the conventional process, i.e., incorporated it into the formal criminal justice system where a final decision on the case is made by an authorized official body. In this regard, it still makes sense to talk about recovery programs but not an alternative justice system. However, the transfer of cases from the authorities for remedial programs and consideration of their results by the court indicates the appearance of an alternative route of movement of the criminal case. The proponents of the restorative justice see their immediate task not in replacing the official justice, but complementing it by focusing on those aspects of the offense, which remain outside the official focus of the criminal process.