Restorative Justice vs Retributive Justice
Difference between Restorative Justice and Retributive Justice is indeed an uncommon topic. It is uncommon because the above terms are not frequently used and, therefore, not familiar to many of us. Those in the legal field might be acquainted with the meaning of each term. However, for those of us not so acquainted, the terms represent a sort of dilemma. Of course, before identifying the distinction between the two it is important to define and examine the precise meaning of each term. To begin with, Restorative Justice and Retributive Justice represent two theories of justice applied in the criminal justice system justice system of a country. Keep in mind, however, that their practical application might differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Think of Restorative Justice as a form of justice involving both the offender and the victim while Retributive Justice involves only the offender.
What is Restorative Justice?
Legally, the term Restorative Justice is defined as a participatory process wherein all people affected by a particular offence, such as the victims, offenders, and the community come together to collectively resolve the situation that follows the aftermath of a crime. The emphasis of such a process is on the restoration of the parties affected by a crime. Generally, a crime or offence affects three parties, namely, the victim, offender and the community as a whole. The ultimate objectives of Restorative Justice include victim healing, offender rehabilitation and accountability, victim empowerment, reconciliation, reparation of the harm caused, community involvement, and resolution of the conflict between all parties concerned. Thus, active participation by all parties is imperative.
Restorative Justice typically follows a process that involves either negotiation between the parties concerned or mediation. This theory of justice focuses equally on all three parties affected by a crime. Therefore, as opposed to imposing a punishment on the offender, Restorative Justice focuses on promoting a more victim/community-centered response. It is thus an alternative to punishment in the criminal justice system. The victims and the community play an important role in such a process while the needs and issues of all parties are discussed and resolved. In short, Restorative Justice serves as a forum in which the victim, offender, and the community can freely raise their issues, concerns and needs in relation to the aftermath of the crime. The process also involves all parties settling on an agreed course of action while encouraging the offender to be accountable for his/her actions by repairing the harm caused. This reparation can be in the form of rehabilitation, community service, or any other form. The theory of Restorative Justice views a crime as an act committed against an individual or community as opposed to the state.
What is Retributive Justice?
The term Retributive Justice refers to a theory of justice that is founded on the idea of punishment. In fact, some refer to it as a system of justice that focuses on the punishment of the offender as opposed to his/her rehabilitation. Traditionally, it is defined as a theory of justice that views punishment as the best response to crime or the morally acceptable response to crime. However, keep in mind that the emphasis of the theory lies in imposing a punishment that is both reasonable and proportionate to the crime and its severity. Retributive Justice has a more moral characteristic in that it seeks to provide mental and/or psychological satisfaction and benefits to the victim and the community. Further, the Retributive Justice theory ensures that such punishment is applied equally to everyone depending on the gravity and nature of the crime.
In Retributive Justice, unlike Restorative Justice, there is no forum or discussion, or the involvement of the victim and community. Retributive Justice connotes that the offender committed a crime against the state and has thereby violated the law and the moral code of the state. The ultimate goal of the theory of Retributive Justice is not rehabilitation, reparation, restoration, or the prevention of future offences. It is, instead, punishment, and returning to the offender a proportionate and suitable punishment in line with the crime and its gravity.
What is the difference between Restorative Justice and Retributive Justice?
If the distinction between Restorative Justice and Retributive Justice still seems ambiguous, let’s examine the main differences more closely.
• Firstly, Restorative Justice views a crime as an act against an individual and the community. In contrast, Retributive Justice considers crime an act against the state and a violation of the state’s law and moral code.
• Restorative Justice focuses on the rehabilitation of the offender, victim healing, and reparation of the harm caused. Retributive Justice, on the other hand, focuses on punishment, one that is suitable and proportionate to the crime committed.
• The victim and the community are central to the process of Restorative Justice whereas their role is limited or virtually non-existent in the process of Retributive Justice.
• Restorative Justice is carried out through either negotiation or mediation that typically involves the participation of the victim, offender, and the community. In contrast, Retributive Justice entails no such process and instead focuses on punishing the offender for the crime.
• Finally, Restorative Justice focuses on achieving justice through the involvement of the above-mentioned parties. Instead, Retributive Justice maintains that justice is served when the offender has been punished appropriately.
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