Modalities of Justice System
In an event of injustice, a victim has various modalities through committed and the preferred rout chosen by the victim. Each of the methods has its shortcomings and its merits. The punitive method is the most common type of justice system. The various modalities are dependent on the type of crime committed and the available infrastructure that has been put in place to ensure that the system is workable. The systems include; criminal justice, restorative justice and social justice systems. Criminal justice system involves the use of defined practices and institutions of governance that deals with ensuring social control in the society. The system is designed to prevent crime by putting punitive measures and arresting those involved in criminal activities or violation of the law for rehabilitation or fine. This justice system has resulted in mass imprisonment which highly affects the society especially the economically potential citizens. On the other hand social justice is a system of promoting fairness in the society by ensuring that discrimination is eliminated. This system of justice involves changing the mindset of persons in the community and to embrace a fair and just process in all their involvement. Therefore, this system in slow and results are attained in the long run it is there’re not effective in solving disputed whose results are required within a short period of time. The other method of justice seeking is through restorative justice system. This approves through which the community, offender and the victim are involved in the process of mediation and crime resolution.
This paper tries to investigate the need for an alternative system of justice that is different from the punitive court process. Further the paper tries to design a justice system for a city with a population of fifteen thousand people. The paper further designs the processes and procedure that the system will follow, it puts into consideration alternative exit strategy in an event that one party is not satisfied with the process. To make the process acceptable to all members of the society the paper outlines the various parties to take part in the process and the benchmarks upon which accountability and transparency is based on. The justice system designed is to serve as an alternative form of resolution without involving the court. The system of choice is the restorative justice system. The paper further outlines the various merits and shortcomings of this justice system.
Need to Design an Alternative Justice System
The most common justice system in use is the criminal justice system. This system has many shortcomings when dealing with peaty crimes and crimes with low levels of magnitude. The process involves the court process which sometimes is long and tedious. The system leads to imprisonment of the offender or imposing of fines. In this system if somebody is convicted of any crime or violation of law he is deprived of his rights and therefore finding it difficult to access opportunities like any other person in the society (Dammer& Albanese, 2014). People looking for jobs find it difficult because of their names being blacklisted in the criminal record books. Therefore, the system is very expensive, resulting in wasting of taxpayers’ money. The high rate of imprisonment has led to overcrowding of the prisons leading to the private prisons making a lot of profit instead of provision of justice. Furthermore, the working conditions in the prisons have become unfavorable due to the large influx of the criminals. Rulings in the Criminal justice systems have very high disparity in the prisoners on the basis of their color. There is some degree of unfairness on the rate of incarceration in the society hence this issue needs an addressing immediately. Due to these short coming, an alternative criminal justice system is required.
The system of consideration is restorative justice which takes into consideration the use of mediation process. There are three types of offences which are common and of lesser magnitude; the crimes are violation, misdemeanor and felony. Violation is the least type which is any offence apart from traffic infraction. It includes offences like harassment, disorderly conduct and trespass. In this offence, the offender stands the risk of imprisoned for up to fifteen days. Violation is not categorized as a crime. Misdemeanor is an offence which is categorized as crime. In this crime, the offender stands the risk of being taken to custody for more than fifteen days but not more than one year. The types of crime categorized under misdemeanor are Petit larceny and assault. Misdemeanor is categorized in to three broad classes, class A,B and unclassified .Class A is whereby the court can sentence a person to at most one year in jail, a fine of one thousands U.S dollars or the person is placed under three years’ probation. Class B misdemeanor is where by a person convicted is taken into custody for at most three months, finned five hundred US dollars or is put under probation for a period not exceeding one year.
Unclassified is any other type of offence which is not classified in the New York Penal law. In unclassified misdemeanor, a person is given an imprisonment term of fifteen days up to one year. Felony is categorized as a crime. The person is given an imprisonment term of up to live imprisonment depending on the type of crime committed. They can also be finned more than US$5,0000. Felony has six categories (A-I, A-II, B, C, D, and E) (Dammer& Albanese,2014). These categories range from the most serious to the least and the type of penalty imposed follows that order. These are type crimes upon which the system of restorative justice is designed. In the city of 15000 people these crimes are pronounced due to the composition of the population which ranges from the young to the elderly.
Principles of Restorative Justice
The first consideration in the design of the system is that it should not contradict rule of law and human rights. Nobody should at any given moment feel intimidated. Therefore, to achieve the system the existing law is read and interpreted. The second consideration is that the process of restorative justice should always discourage discrimination. Dignity of the victim needs to be carefully protected during the process. This is mostly emphasized when the offender is a first-time offender. No discrimination of victims on the basis of their color, race or gender, as the case in the criminal justice system, justice must always be done to all people across the divide.
The offenders, victims and the community must have information before the proceedings of the process about the possible results of the process and their rights during the process. This ensures that when they meet for the process they have a clue in their minds what they are likely to expect in the end (Braithwaite, 2002). They should also be assured that their rights will at no circumstance be violated during the process.
The victims, offenders and the community must have the ability to freely withdraw from the process at any stage. It is an open process to everybody therefore encouraging healing and reconciliation among the stake holders. The withdrawal and joining of the process must follow due course so as to protect the integrity of the process.
Once the restorative justice procedure is proposed, involved parties must have enough time to consult before the process begins. They should have humble time to consider their option if they feel restorative justice is not the best for them therefore opting to withdraw and take other option available at their disposal. In the criminal justice system referral to restorative justice is possible at any stage. The stage holders in any case can apply for referral of their matter to restorative justice system especially in the pre-trial stage and sentence agreement.
Restorative justice process must give all parties involved equal opportunities. The offender, victim and the community should have equal vote in the process so that they participate freely. It does not matter type of the offence committed, everybody must have equal participatory opportunity in the process or else parties will withdraw since they are free to do so any stage in the process. The decisions arrived at during the process is kept confidential. Everything discussed should at all cost not disclosed to the public who are not part of the process or have no interest in the whole issue.
During the restorative justice proceedings victims and offenders are allowed to come with witnesses and other people of their own interested in the case as long as their presence does not at any cost compromise the activities of the day. This helps in creating a friendly environment during the entire process. Also in the course of the proceedings parties are allowed to seek advice from the legal team if need arises so that they can argue their case effectively. During the process children, by definition in the law are not be allowed to participate unless allowed by the parents or guardians or when they are accompanied by an adult recommended by their parents or guardians. If it happens and the children are cleared to participate it is ensured that they understand the whole process so that they can be free to take part effectively. Precautions are mandatory during the proceedings so as to ensure that neither the children nor their custodians are intimidated at any stage of the process.
The process should make sure that the agreements are proportionate to the harm the offender caused to the victim. The main aim of the process is to ensure that the offence is never repeated in future. The system should give room for the offender to express shame, ask for forgiveness and apology. Restorative justice process should provide a facilitator who is fully trained for the process and provide a trained interpreter where necessary. This provision ensures that nobody complaints of language barrier in the outcome of the process (Braithwaite, 2002).
Design of Restorative Justice System
The city of choice has a small population of fifteen thousand people; therefore, the offences common are violation and misdemeanor which can be comfortably handled by restorative justice process without criminal justice system.
Restorative justice is a process in which all the stakeholders involved in a certain offence ranging from the victim, offender and the community members voluntarily appear before an impartial facilitator to discuss on the issues surrounding the offence committed (Braithwaite, 2002). The facilitator is usually an elder within the affected community or somebody of integrity within the community. The main purpose is to understand the effects the crime may impose to those involved and the need to call for healing among them. This process is very fair and fights the issues surrounding injustices and the expenses of the court system. Restorative justice is adopted due to the various challenges affecting the criminal justice system. This is a system of justice that is effective in solving petty crimes and crime of lower magnitude. The process if followed to the latter will successfully resolve dispute and promote social order. In the city of choice, instead of using criminal justice system which has may challenges applying restorative justice system to discourage crime and violation of the law is very important.
Steps in achieving justice through restorative justice
Elementary school teaching program
In the city, I suggest that restorative justice program be introduced in schools so that kids at early age are taught the values of it such as mercy, forgiveness, consensus and apology. The program can be achieved in several steps in elementary schools, these are as follows;
Use of circles as a process in building the community
This is the best way of learning the children so that you can repair harm among them. Putting the kids in circles helps to know the behavior of all of them within the circle. Besides, promotes pro-social skills and social emotional experience among them.
Use of restorative justice philosophy
Restorative justice philosophy is based on respect and inclusion. The gap between students/teachers, students/parents/students/community be bridged. People will do harm if they get an opportunity to justify their actions. I suggest that the kids be taught that they have a say and can be listened to either in school, at home or in the community.
Use of comprehensive whole school approach
I encourage use of restorative justice in discipline in the schools. Promote peace in reconciliation and healing among the students in case of any harm. More so let the students feel the sense of use belonging, use engagement, involve parents and staff in repairing harm.
Circle again and again
In case harm persists after a first circle, create another circle again and again. Develop a plan which does not punish anybody but encourages consensus among the community. In the circle make sure that everybody’s needs are taken care of.
Restoring justice at community level
At community level despites are to be solved outside court, however, to achieve this a transparent system with no room for compromise must be adapted, the system will involve a series of step that are followed. The steps are as follows;
Mediation between Victim and Offender
Once any offence has been committed in the city, the victim or the members of the community should report it immediately for action to be taken, after the act is reported, both the victim and the offender are given an opportunity to meet at a place in the presence of a trained mediator usually an elder. Both parties engage in the discussion voluntarily from the begging until the end. The mediate in the course of the discussion tries to bring in to light the effects the offence has to both the victim and the offender and the possible consequence accompanied such an offence and encourage reconciliation, apology, mercy and forgiveness to the parties.
Victim and Offender Group Conferencing
This is a process whereby all the stakeholders ranging from victim, offender, their families, friends and supporters come together to discuss and address a certain crime committed by and individual. This type of process is common in children offenders and victims but should also apply across the board. In this the discussions involving family, friends and supporters helps the offender understand the weight of the offence and be ready to take responsibility for his/her actions.
Dialogue among Justice Stakeholders
The parties involved in dialogue may include the offender, victim, families of both the offender and the victim, friends of offender and the victim, supporters of offender and the victim, police, court workers, judicial officers and the prosecutors. These parties have to get involved in a dialogue to address a problem in a society. This is the best way of addressing an offence in the community It gives the community members a say in the ruling and the outcome of an offence in the community. It also gives the offender an opportunity to accept responsibility of his/her actions and amend his/her behavior. The victims also get the opportunity to forgive the offender and accept him/her in the community. This is in contrary to the situation when the offender is jailed in the criminal justice system thereby taking time for the community to accept back the offender even after serving his/her jail term (Hughes, Muncie& McLaughlin,2001). This system also helps to reduce the overcrowding in the prisons and wastage of the taxpayers money on criminal justice systems on issues which can be amicably addressed within the society.
Benefits of the Restorative Justice Process
Restorative justice is an equivalent to a court process but conducted in a community setup. This dispute resolving strategy is very beneficial when parties involved are in agreement with the process. It has many benefits including the following;
Prevents Re-occurring of the Offence
Offenders who have gone through restorative justice process get an opportunity to make amends to their behavior and are likely not be involved in offences in future (Dignan, 2005). They learn from their mistakes and take a lot of measures not repeat the same.
Victims get empowered
Restorative justice process gives victims an opportunity to know their rights and get experiences in dealing with offences. The victims also get to know what to expect in committing such offences from that experience. The process takes shorter time than criminal justice system and also no expensive. The victim gets compensated for the harm caused to him/her within a short duration. The offender gets the opportunity to request for forgiveness from the victim. Where the victim feels that justice has prevailed he can give conditions to the offenders as he forgives him.
An alternative criminal justice system is designed because current systems are very expensive, wasting a lot of taxpayers’ money. Restorative justice process gives victims an opportunity to know their rights and get experiences in dealing with offences. It also gives the gives the community an opportunity to be involved in solving disputes within the society
Since restorative justice process is conducted within the community, the victim also gets the opportunity to access the harm caused to him and the consequences it has on him. Family, friends and supporters help to shape the future of the offender by discussing mitigation measures of such type of offence such that it is not repeated in future. It also gives the community a say in addressing the offences done within the community.
Braithwaite, J. (2002). Restorative justice & responsive regulation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Dammer, H. R.& Albanese, J. S. (2014). Comparative criminal justice systems. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Dignan, J. (2005). Understanding victims and restorative justice. Maidenhead, England: Open University Press.
Hughes, G. Muncie, J.& McLaughlin, E. (2001). Crime prevention and community safety: New directions. London: SAGE.