Change About the Criminal Justice System Term Paper

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¶ … change about the criminal justice system if I had the power to do so?

For the criminal justice system to be changed, it seems to me that its very basics need to be altered, and I therefore lean towards the philosophy of Restorative justice. Restorative justice in effect states that the offender will grow not be crushed by his crime and will be induced to atone for, rather than commit more crimes. It also believes that a constructive dialogue will be fostered between offender and victim where, after atoning, the offender will be brought into, rather than shunned from the community. Furthermore, it believes that the victim will be most appropriately addressed by this system, rather than ignored as he is at the moment. The offense is seen for what it truly is -- a hurt directed at another individual -- rather than a hurt directed at an abstract government. By addressing it for what it truly is and atoning for that wrong, restitution sees justice better served than by aimless and destructive vindication. Nonetheless, critics claim the approach to be too sentimental and 'pie in the sky' Pollyanna type of thinking. Criticisms include opinions that victims like to see revenge and that many offenders are resilient to feelings of compassion and atonement.

The following essay leads us through a summary of the system and its criticisms concluding with suggesting some solutions. To me, it still seems that Restorative justice may be the best method for addressing some of the problems inherent in the Criminal justice system. The method needs to be equilibrated so that it is worked in conjunction with others, its points are made more specific so that they are understood, and the system is tapered to those who would most benefit from it, whilst the public receives ongoing and uninterrupted protection.

Restorative justice

Restorative justice (or 'reparative justice') refers to a system that has become increasingly popular where offenders make amends to the victims directly instead of to the criminal system by either atoning for hurts they have done to victim by placating victim in terms of monetary or other recompense, or involving themselves in community services or in other useful ways. Restorative Justice focuses around creating a dialogue between offender and victim where offenders are encouraged to become accountable for their actions and is led to recognizing the weight of their error.

Although thought of as a comparatively recent addition to the Criminal Justice system, restorative justice actually ahs deep roots stretching way back to the time of Hammurabi where both his Code and the Code of ur-Nammu required restitution for certain offenses. Similarly, the Bible required restitution for certain property crimes and in Rome; the 12 Tables compelled thieves to pay double the value of stolen goods (the bible's law was similar). Ireland, England, and Germany, under different eras of its earliest of times, required restitution for both violent and non-violent offenses, and in New Zealand, the Maori have long had a system of restitute judgment.

Today, restorative justice is tentatively making its way around the globe and being introduced in various components of the criminal justice system from petty, non-violent crimes to political crimes. Some countries have grater leanings towards the system than others. In America, for instance, some states have more enthusiastically adopted it than others, with other states still skeptical and tentatively experimenting with the system. In England, however, restorative justice became part of the national policy with its White Paper 'No more excuses' (1977) where they affirmed that the three principles underlying youth justice system were to be the 3 R's: restoration, reintegration, and responsibility.

Why Restorative Justice is a good idea for the criminal justice system

Restorative justice is ideal for the criminal justice system due to at least four primary reasons:

1. It shifts the perspective of justice to where it belongs -- to the offending person and the person who has been wronged

2. It transfers crime from offense against the law to offense and wound against another. By seeing crime as such, the offender may be brought to better recognition of the harm that he has done and greater willingness to atone for it.

3. The victim is addressed and recompensed, rather than, oftentimes (as the case is) the state being mollified

4. Retribution serves towards a constructive purpose of -- as Braithwhite calls it -- 'restorative shame' rather than 'stigmatizing shame'

We will go through each of these in turn.

(a) Restorative Justice shifts the perspective of justice to where it belongs -- to the offending person and the person who has been wronged

Nils Christie (1977) claimed that details of what society prohibits or permits are often difficult to decode and that, in fact, the "degree of blameworthiness is often not expressed in the law at all" (Christie, 1977, 8.). The State (according to Christie) has "stolen the conflict" between citizens, meaning that it is some detached professor or specialist in his Ivory Tower who makes the law instead of the man in the street who is most familiar with the situation, resulting in the fact that society has been deprived of the "opportunities for norm-classification." Instead of lay people, themselves defining what is permitted and prohibited to a social way of living, professionals and specialists delegate the responsibility to them and claim to be able to best define 'crime' and to provide solutions to punitive solution of reform and education of offender. These specialists may have received straight as in their subjects and may be Ivy League graduates, but they are often far removed from the rigors and practicalities of life and ill equipped to recognize crime for what it is or to emphasize with the compulsions that draw people to crime. Social conflicts, problems, and troubles, Christie believes, are best dealt with and analyzed by those who originate from and experience those particular travails. Referring them to so-called specialists may easily result in misunderstand and erroneous response. Restorative justice on the other hand restores judgment to those who can beast understand and articulate the solution to that particular problem. The criminal and his victim are brought face-to-face. They recognize the problem for what it is and work together to righten the situation.

(b) Restorative judgment transfers crime from offense against the law to offense and wound against another. By seeing crime as such, the offender may be brought to better recognition of the harm that he has done and greater willingness to atone for it.

In 1980, Howard Zehr claimed that conventional criminal justice system views crime and justice through a retributive perspective where crime is seen as violating laws and justice is seen as condemning the other and demanding retribution (Zehr, 1990). In his own words, he describes "crime" as a "wound in human relationships," that "creates an obligation to restore and repair" (Zehr, 1990, 181). As result, therefore, the conventional criminal justice system demands avenge of hurt and slight of the government and acts with retribution (i.e. punishes) the offender for the wound that he has inflicted in lacerating the law. In Zehr's own words, the traditional Criminal Justice system articulates crime as "a violation of the State, defined by lawbreaking and guilt. Justice determines blame and administers pain in a contest between the offender and the State directed by systematic rules" (ibid).

Restorative justice, on the toehr hand, according to Zehr, is far more encouraging and healthy in that it sees crime as violation of people and interpersonal relationships, rather than violation of a government law. Restorative justice is, therefore, more practical, more optimistic, and more constructive in that the offender is brought to see the other as a human, akin to himself, and, by making amends, repairs ties with the other person and restores the fabric of society. The differnce between the two perspectives of crime and justice is immense: conventional legal system sees the offender as violating government-implemented laws. Restorative justice, on the other hand, focuses on violation of social relationship and seeks to repair fractured interpersonal relationships.

© the victim is addressed and recompensed, rather than, oftentimes (as the case is) the state being mollified

Assessing some of the central interventions employed in restorative judgment that include victim-offender mediation, healing or sentencing circles, and conferencing, James Dignan's 'Restorative Justice and the Law: The case for an integrated, systematic approach" (2002) praises restorative judgment as addressing a void in the conventional criminal justice system in that it forces attention to the victim rather than to the offender and does a far better job of placating and making amends to the victim, than the present criminal justice system does. To Dignan, Restorative Justice should be viewed form the victim's perspective and further treatments more officious to the victim could be introduced and popularized. Dignan's entire approach shifts the field of criminal Justice from focus on offender to focus o n victim. When you see it in that way, perspective towards crime shifts and the entire field of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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