Restorative Justice

Restorative justice focuses more on the harm rather than the breaking of law. Moreover, it reorients peoples focus on the trauma of victimization to both the offender and the victim especially in the cases of the increased violent crimes. Besides centering the victim theoretically, restorative justice also centers the needs of all individuals who have suffered harm. Trauma has psychological and biological effects to both the offender and the victim. This paper presents trauma as an analytical tool of restorative justice, its implications to offenders and victims, its effects on the current criminal justice practice, and the restorative justice processes with regard to trauma.

Biological and psychological effects of trauma
The effects of trauma are felt by several generations especially in a tightly knit community. In the recent past, the incarceration rate has increases significantly, with the number of women being hirer than the number of men.  As a result of incarceration of women, their children perform poorly in schools, they suffer emotional distress and they tend to be aggressive.  In schools, trauma is passable of exerting difficulties and subsequent lack of legitimate opportunities. Studies show that women prisoners are exposed to traumatic experiences such as interpersonal violence. (Hammett et al. 2001).
Studies show that interpersonal trauma is associated with unhealthy behaviors such as risky sexual behavior substance abuse, and smoking, Moreover, trauma damages the psyche of the victims creating a feeling of humiliation, shame and more significantly disconnection. ( Solanto, 2008).

The biological effects include the PTSD which occurs due to re-experiencing the trauma either through retesting memories, flashbacks or symbolized events. This can lead to amnesia, , sleep disturbances,  cognitive impairment,  irritability, and concentration problems among others.

Offenders also feel trauma following the pain physical and psychological loss felt by the victims. They similarly feel shame, blame, humiliation, rage and alienation. The restorative justice understands that there are offenders who realize they are guilty and feel the urge to change in order to heal. On seeing the victim s suffer, offenders grieve and feel empathy, and they tend to seek forgiveness. Through the forgiveness, offenders heal and they restore belonging, self-respect, and dignity. This healing and restoration restores the interpersonal relationship in the society as an evidence of successful restorative justice in addressing trauma. (Green et al.2005).

Implications of trauma victims and offenders and their effects on current criminal justice practices
Both the victims and the offenders suffer trauma though in different ways, thus in treating the trauma different measures are required. Actually, the community is no longer caring, thus these victims and offenders do not get any caring support from the community. Therefore, understanding the effects of trauma in any criminal activity is the only way a community can make changes.

The current criminal justice system should understand that when an individual is arrested, trauma leads to false mental recollection.  They should understand that the individuals being interrogated have already suffered trauma and they might fail to give the required information. Taking the issues to the court means giving the jury power to handle the issue over the offender and the victim, without dealing with the trauma.  Restating and flash backs used in the court o give evidence on the crime do more traumatic harm to the victims and the offenders than good as they make them to re-experience thus PTSD. (Freeman, 2000).  Based on the courts ruling, the offender can be retained in prison as a punishment for the criminal activity.  While in incarceration, offenders get special programs which aim at transforming their criminal behaviors, but this does not guarantees healing from trauma.  Healing comes from the inner conscious of an individual, and not from the external force, thus the offender and the victim need to be supported to make their decisions more importantly by allowing the offender to restitute to the victim and subsequent healing and restoration of interpersonal relationship in the society.

Restorative justice and trauma
Victims of trauma develop a feeling that people do not understand them, and they loss belonging, respect and dignity. Victims of crimes get physical wounds and trauma which damages the interpersonal relationship within the society, and the community. Restorative justice is concerned in healing such wounds and repairing the interpersonal relationships. Restorative justice provides offenders, victims, and the community opportunities to be involved directly in the process of responding to the harm.

It assumes the crimes were committed against individuals and not states, and it intervenes to satisfy the emotional, social, financial and material needs of the victim.

Based on this, assumption restorative justice advocates offenders should restitute to the victims as a way of restoring interpersonal relationships, dignity and respect. Coming in terms with the past has significant psychological benefit people seeking trauma healing. Acknowledgement of the past crimes restores victims dignity

To reduce the number of criminals and criminal behaviors, the justice system should understand both the victims and the offenders.  They should investigate on the factors which contributed to the occurrence of the incident in order to make the society safer. Otherwise, arresting, retaining and later allowing the offenders back to the society does not heal the victims and the offenders, and the society remains at risk of criminal activities.


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