Probation as an Alternative to Incarceration in Violent Crimes

Introduction

Restorative justice is a superior corrective method in criminal judicial systems. It involves taking steps in reinstating victims, offenders and community (Braithwaite, 1998). In this corrective strategy, there is a substantial focus on the restoration of a victim, where the property loss, injury, sense of safety, dignity, a feeling of empowerment, deliberative democracy, harmony and social support are restored. Restorative justice is preferable to other methods, such as the retribution or rehabilitation, and is likely to be more accepted to all parties involved in a crime, namely a victim offender and the community. It is, therefore, right to say that this is one of the most promising criminal correction strategies that will work today and still has a place tomorrow.

Restorative Justice and Probation

The muscle of restorative justice is that it involves deliberation concerning the crime's significance, as well as how to handle the crime and finally avoid its recurrence (Braithwaite, 1998). This deliberation is controlled mainly by citizens as opposed to a situation, where rules are applied to a case by professionals in the legal system, and often the rules become constrained on their application, since they are rather a technical than a practical route of finding the solution.

Whereas criminal reforms aim at rebuilding the harmony between a victim, offender and society at large, it is important that justice prevails for the harmony to be within reach. Restorative justice is a perfect tool in this, since it ensures that justice is done to all parties. The discussions that take place in restorative justice try to dig to the root of the offence (Levrant, Cullen, Fulton, & Wozniak, 1999). With the knowledge of what led an offender to commit a crime, it is possible to address the problem from the roots, thus, ensuring that the crime cycle is broken. The end result of this is a consolidated relationship between all the parties, since the injustice behind the cause of a crime is put into consideration. Although it is obvious that this justice system is not there to resolve injustices that are in any government or society, the accord is always achieved from the fact that the parties involved in a discussion reach to a common point, where the injustices underlying the situation are agreed upon, and remedial steps are considered (Braithwaite, 1998).

A society that offers support to those involved in a crime either as victims or offenders is likely to prevent perpetual crimes. In restorative justice, a victim particularly needs the support and encouragement from close friends and relatives, so that they can get confidence in discussing with the offender and in the process they get healed (Lipsey, 1997). With the victim healed, it is unlikely that they will seek a revenge, which may come in form of another crime.

A focus on the offender is also given in restorative justice, whereby the dignity restoration becomes pertinent in efforts to unite the offender with the community and victim. When people commit crimes that obviously injure a victim physically or bring a loss in material things, the offender must suffer shame of being known to be the one, who committed the crime (Braithwaite, 1998). In the process of restorative justice, the offender faces the victim and other relevant parties around a discussion table, where he or she admits to having committed the crime and apologizes to the offended in sincerity, and the shame that was there initially gets eroded from the accepted apologies. The dignity that was lost is further restored by the step taken by the offender to pay for any damage caused during the crime. This is also a step towards restoring the harmony and a sign of sincere apology and decision to stop criminal acts. The dignity is considerably vital in maintaining a moral uprightness and mostly those, who commit crime, do so due to the lost dignity as a result of previous losses or injuries (Gendreau, Goggin, Cullen, & Andrews, 1999). Therefore, the approach taken by restorative justice is wholesome.

For there to be a corrective impact on the offender, there is a need to empower and offer the security to the offender. For instance, a person may be obliged to steal due to the prevailing poverty and joblessness; thus, restorative justice may address this by assuring the offender a support in securing a job, thus, giving the person hope for a better future and success. This becomes a strong empowerment method that eventually clears the crime. Restorative justice forms a strong platform for these two issues (insecurity and disempowerment) to be addressed (Braithwaite, 1998).

The lack of rich deliberative democracies forms the basis of the majority of social injustices, which eventually lead to people indulging in criminal acts as a way of expressing dissatisfaction (Levrant, Cullen, Fulton, & Wozniak, 1999). Restorative justice is a deliberative tool that is powerful enough to bring about rich discussions that focus on the social injustices, thereby enriching democracy. With an enriched democracy, crime rates reduce considerably and, hence, the need to embrace restorative justice. In order to confront a criminal culture, it is crucial to ensure that the offender also receives benefits in the outcome of a case failure, to which they tend to extend their revengeful acts as a sign of injustice done to them. Restorative justice caters for this, since the offender reaches a consensus with the victim during discussions, and that leaves everyone feeling that justice has been done. Restorative justice is, thus, an essential tool in breaking a criminal culture.

The social support is essential in confronting crime. With the social support, shame and guilt of the offender are shared by close friend and family members, and the offender is drawn to forgive due to the expression of love showed by those supporting him or her. The offender feels obliged to forgive in order to save those supporting him from the further shame (Braithwaite, 1998). This is a corrective measure that is guaranteed with restorative justice, since it involves even persons, who are close to the offender.

Another strong point for restorative justice is that it plays a crucial role in restoring a community (Levrant, Cullen, Fulton, & Wozniak, 1999). This is achieved, since the social support is offered to the offender and victim by other members of the community. Such groups ensure that justice gets restored from the grassroots upwards, and this is obviously highly effective due to the embracement by the community, in which crimes are supposed to be ended. Restorative justice is also likely to rise to another level, whereby community organizations, like churches or schools, embrace it, thus, curbing crimes in such institutions due to the sustained social justice (Braithwaite, 1998). Since restorative justice involves a dialogue, it can be promoted to a national level, where the government deliberates on issues like unemployment that are likely to foster a crime. Once these are addressed, the crime rate is bound to go down. Restorative justice is, therefore, a strong tool for enhancing the community and national cohesion as well as a means of addressing inequities in the society that are likely to cause strife.

The retribution or incapacitation, on the other hand, cannot hold water for long, and they are likely to cause more harm than good. Restorative justice, however, is universal and stands the test of time. Violence is bound to beget violence; therefore, the retribution or incapacitation as corrective strategies only lead to perpetual violence and breakage of the law (Lipsey, 1997). Restorative justice is always awake to the truth of the matter, and going for truth sets the society free of injustices and crime. The retribution is contrast to a way of shielding the truth and instead provoking a confrontation. It leaves more wounds than before, thus, making an offender look forward to revenging, which of course comes in a criminal way (Gendreau, Goggin, Cullen, & Andrews, 1999).

The adoption of restorative justice is likely to receive acceptance from the majority of society, since it practices culturally acceptable roles universally. Essentially, all cultures in the world value justice, harmony and need for security and empowerment, and they will always work towards restoring such if there is a deviation (Levrant, Cullen, Fulton, & Wozniak, 1999). This can happen in a formal or an informal setting. Restorative justice is compatible with these needs of the society.

A democracy, where the deliberation is allowed, is a preference for many, and that is why those, who campaign for it, get an enormous support from ordinary citizens. Therefore, it is not a surprise that most ordinary citizens are for restorative justice, which enhances the deliberative democracy (Braithwaite, 1998). The challenge of ensuring that all cultures embrace restorative justice can also be easily dealt with, since one only needs to have different cultures focus on the benefits thereof, and then they can weigh against other corrective measures. It is likely to have restorative justice prevail over the other due to many commonalities that exist in all communities worldwide.

The influence of restoration has been proved to be immense and effective in that families that tend to take a restorative approach towards an errant member are likely to succeed as compared to those that insist on the punishment or stigma (Braithwaite, 1998). The family is the basis of any society and, thus, if restorative justice can work in families, there is no doubt that it can work in criminal correction centers or in other communities, like schools, where corrective measures are always needed. In any case, extending this system to such communities is an extension towards molding errant persons from all dimensions as well as unifying individuals with the larger community. Bullying in schools has particularly been reduced in many schools due to the adoption of restorative justice in those institutions (Braithwaite, 1998). A retributive approach to bullying is likely to perpetuate this behavior as the revenge is sought.

Restorative justice is the best approach in the criminal correction, since it applies principles that are acceptable and valued universally. Deficiencies that are brought about by centralizing the criminal justice system are also addressed properly in this system.

Inflicting harm on an offender or becoming tough on them cannot be the best way of controlling crime. Often these are approaches that are taken after a crime has been committed, but restorative justice is more preventive (Gendreau, Goggin, Cullen, & Andrews, 1999).

Restorative justice is highly effective in dealing with juvenile cases, and this avoids their imprisonment, which often worsens the situation as the youths pick up worse habits, like drug abuse, in these institutions. The strategy has in particular been applied successfully in the Maryland’s juvenile system (Cullen & Gendreau, 2000). The adoption of restorative justice over other methods in many states in North America and Europe are a clear indication that it is a substantially promising strategy in combating crime (Cullen & Gendreau, 2000).

The rehabilitation as a corrective policy has been in place from the 1900 and has been blamed in some areas (Cullen & Gendreau, 2000). With rehabilitation, the state can either be lenient or be exceptionally coercive to offenders. It is often a failure, since it rarely prevents criminals from going back to their criminal behaviors (Martinson, 1974). Perhaps, this is due to the leniency that it has and the fact that it does not bring the offender to owning up to the crime, and, hence, no corrections can be made. Even if recidivism may reduce as a result of the offender treatment, benefits can not outweigh those of using the holistic restorative justice. There is a biased focus on the offender with the rehabilitation; therefore, he or she may not be accepted by the community after the rehabilitation. Thus, the society remains with fear of insecurity. Considering that the victim still suffers from the violence, there remain injuries that may provoke them to revenge. In any case, the victim is not compensated for the losses, and this causes a more imbalanced justice. In America, the rehabilitation has already been proved to be a failed project; therefore, there is a need to embrace restorative justice (Cullen & Gendreau, 2000).

By using the retribution or incapacitation, it is likely to violate basic human rights, and, thus, these become failed strategies (Martinson, 1974). An effort to threaten an offender by severely punishing him or her may not guarantee that they will not go back to crime. They are not brought to a point, where they can visualize the harm of their crime as in restorative justice, and, therefore, they may develop bitterness and revenge.

Conclusion

Restorative justice has a place today and tomorrow. So far, it is the most friendly criminal correction method as compared to some other brutal methods like the incapacitation and retribution. Even the less brutal strategies, such as the rehabilitation, are not to be compared with restorative justice. In fact, the rehabilitation can be taken as just one part of restorative justice. It forms the offender focus part of restorative justice and ignores the victim and community. In other words, the rehabilitation of criminals can be made part of the more comprehensive restorative justice. In this century, people need corrective systems that advocate for a deliberative democracy and those that have a respect for human rights in as much as justice is to be administered. The best available tool that the Ohio Governor and any criminal justice system should adopt is restorative justice. In terms of this approach, an offender admits to have committed a crime, a victim faces the offender, and they discuss on the compensation and forgiveness, while the involvement of the community enables good reintegration of the offender into the society.

Therefore, it is the considered opinion based on the merits of restorative justice discussed above as compared to other correctional philosophies that this is the way to go if people are to successfully reform criminals.