Restorative justice is based on an approach to crime that is more expansive than the traditional. That model typically goes to strict processes of apprehending offenders, determining guilt, and setting the appropriate punishment. With the restorative, crime is immediately addressed in a more comprehensive way. There is, for example, an emphasis on victim support being in place throughout the entire process of dealing with the crime and the offender(s). Similarly, support is offered to the offenders; they are informed that the system will assist them in both ensuring that they are guilty and in making amends if that is the case.
Then, as with victim support, offenders are made aware that they will be treated with respect. These factors go to the victim and offender support personnel in place, just as law enforcement and court officers work within the framework of a remedial handling of the crime (RJ City, 2009). Essentially, this is a form of justice focused on addressing the consequences of crime, and for all concerned. It is then less intent on actual punishment, unlike the traditional system, as it perceives and is directed at how crime impacts on the community, as well as those directly involved.
The crime in the case study clearly impacted on others beyond Mildred. To begin with, her daughter Betty’s life was changed, as Betty felt the need to have Mildred move in with her and as she assisted in easing her mother’s distress. Then, all those in the community involved in the restorative processes were called upon, or volunteered, to offer help as they could, ranging from John to Helen, who would visit with Mildred nightly until she felt that her home was safe again. The community commitment aspect of this help, also, were challenging for Helen and her husband.
Then, other effects of the crime were evident when the circle was held. David’s former baseball coach, for example, was educated as to the real nature of David’s personal issues, just as the boy’s entire family was led to examine their own conduct. A further impact of the crime lies in how Ed, through resisting the charges and taking responsibility, fell into further destructive behavior, but eventually moved in more positive directions. For both David and Ed, in fact, the crime itself generated entirely new lives for them, and by means of the interactive restorative processes.
In regard to benefits, Mildred’s interests were greatly served by the restorative model. She was protected and helped by others in the community when she felt at her most vulnerable. Furthermore, the process as a whole allowed her to move beyond feelings of fear to the point of accepting a gift from David; that is, she was enabled to see the criminal as a human being who had made a mistake and who wanted to make things right. This in turn goes to how the process permitted David to reexamine his life and better understand how he could help himself for the future. A strictly penal approach would not encourage anything like this, as David received ongoing support based on the premise that he was not innately criminal.
Then, the community as a whole enjoyed the benefit of the process as drawing so many members of it closer together. On one level, it gained the advantage of an increased awareness of the vulnerability of all, and consequently a stronger and more unified commitment to look after one another. On another, there was the benefit of the community as having acted in a humane and constructive way. All those involved in support and the circle learned a great deal about one another, which must go to a more cohesive and supportive community in general. Lastly, the community had the pragmatic benefit of two young men as being discouraged from committing further crime.