Based on its definition and expected benefits, restorative justice is more effective for rehabilitating offenders, reintegrating them into society and generally reducing offending. Restorative justice is a new way of responding to criminal behavior. Rather than mere punitive responses, restorative justice takes the interest and needs of the offender, victims, society and bystanders into account (Menken-Meadow, 2007). Therefore, restorative justice responses can involve apologies, restoration, acknowledgement of the wrongfulness of one’s act, victim communications and the reintegration of the offender into society together with “healing” for all effected parties (Menkel-Meadow, 2007, p. 10.2).
Braithwaite (n.d.) likens restorative justice to re-integrative shaming, because it requires the acknowledgment and acceptance of the wrongfulness of the crime. According to Braithwaite, re-integrative shaming increases the possibility of reducing crime and at the very least reduces recidivism. By contrast, labeling theory which designates a criminal or deviant label for convicted criminals can encourage and offender to re-offend since he is already labelled a criminal or deviant (Bernburg, 2009).
Restorative justice takes the position that when a crime is committed, it is not simply a “violation of law” but also a “violation of people and relationships” (Latimer, Dowden & Muise, 2005, p. 128). Restorative justice is practiced in three settings: mediation between the offender and the victim; conferences; and circles (Latimer, et al., 2005). The offender can be referred to the program by law enforcement prior to a charge, by the crown after a charge, by the courts prior to sentencing, by the prisons after sentencing or by a parole officer prior to revocation (Latimer, et al., 2005).
The expected beneficial outcomes are the victim’s vindication, compensation and healing (Latimer, et al., 2005). For the offender, the benefits are fairness, repair and rehabilitation (Latimer, et al., 2005). For the community at large, the benefits are healing and the reintegration of the both the victim and the offender (Latimer, et al., 2005).
One of the main ways that restorative justice works for preventing re-offending is its appeal to the conscience of the offender. For example, Liebmann (2007) reported that in a typical case, offenders view compensatory damages as another form of punishment. However, within the realm of restorative justice programs, the offender comes into contact with the victim and comes to terms with why compensation is necessary. This form of communication and mediation encourages the offender to be “more emotionally engaged with the idea of paying something back” (Liebmann, 2007, p. 56). Therefore, restorative justice should be used to aid in the rehabilitation of the offender for preventing reoffending.
Restorative justice also works well with rehabilitation in its community reparations program. In these programs, the offender is ordered to carrying out some sort of community service (Liebmann, 2007). In doing so, the offender usually develops positive feelings about the self because he or she perceives that she is giving back to the community (Liebmann, 2007). This sort of positive feeling will function to rehabilitate the offender and make it unlikely that he or she will re-offend and undo the good that was accomplished through community service.
Liebmann (2007) provides a good example of how restorative justice works to prevent re-offending. In Liebmann’s (2007) example, a young offender was ordered reparation by the Youth Offending Team for a graffiti offence against London’s Underground trains. The young offender was ordered 24 hours of community service under a Reparation Order. The youth was required to complete a health and safety training program, clean graffiti from trains, engage in discussions about graffiti cases and tour trains with graffiti while discussing the cost of graffiti (Liebmann, 2007). The young offender gained a healthy appreciation for the consequences of graffiti and the difficulty of cleaning it. This changed his view and his future behavior (Liebmann, 2007).