Friday, 27 January 2012

Justice, or is it..?

I bought a Telegraph newspaper to read the other day, first time for ages as I normally hear the news on the radio.  I don't know whether it's the paper or me that has changed, but I found myself ranting at it over the headlines and the way the stories (are news items 'stories' or 'fact'!?) were written.

One such item was saying that the public (whoever they are) think that offenders who do community service get an easy ride. The paper did at least stop short of adding "....they should lock them up and throw away the key" - I guess that is more The Sun or Daily Mail style.  

I personally think that for minor offences, community service is a much better method than imprisonment.

1. the person puts something back into their community which they have damaged in whatever way.
2. they don't get locked up with hardened criminals and come out of prison worse than they went in.
3. it could be the step they need out their previous life, who knows.
4. they pay for the offence in work and the 'shame' of everyone knowing why they are there.

taken from the above linked article

Coincidently, I then went on to read an article for my OU course on Restorative Justice.  That is, when instead of going to court, the offender and the victim meet and agree between them (with a facilitator) what steps can be taken to repair the harm or damage the offender has done.  In some countries this method is used for crimes up to and including violent / sexual crimes, whilst in others it is limited to minor offences.

Yes I know that exclusion from society is a standard punishment, but with prisons full to bursting and the costs of keeping prisoners spiralling, I cannot see why 'the public' (many of whom are also 'the taxpayer' who pays for the prisons), can't see that in some cases an alternative method might be preferable.  Part of the idea of Restorative Justice is the shaming of the person's behaviour, within the community, and this is considered more likely to reduce re-offending than a prison sentence.

Maybe I just don't always think the same was as 'the public'...



  1. I don't know that I'd fit into the John Q. Public mold either. But I do question of 'restorative justice' might not be more effective in some cases.
    We have 'victim rights statements', but no real 'victim restorative process'. So we get to say what we think/feel, but essentially nothing gets done with it unless there's 'restitution' attached to it. And in most cases, that doesn't happen if the offender is incarcerated.

    Hardly seems 'just' or effective.

    There's great power in the 'shaming' of behavior. Sometimes that works--sometimes that backfires and simply adds to the sense of entitlement/anger that some offenders possess.

    *laughing* In other words--who knows! But I'm game simply because the system we're employing doesn't hold that good of a track record.

  2. Mel, in my mind RJ isn't really RJ unless it includes restitution.

    J x


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