Why me? The value of Restorative Justice
Author: Lucy Jaffe, Director, Why Me?
People who become victims of crime often ask ‘why me?’ ‘why my house?’ ‘why my family?’. Those questions often go unanswered and victims are left feeling traumatised and sidelined. The criminal justice process is focused, for the large part, on catching and punishing the offender, not on rehabilitating victims.
Restorative Justice can offer a solution. It is a simple and voluntary process which gives victims a voice and a space to tell the offender about the impact of the crime they have committed. There are three main questions: what has happened, who has been affected and what can be done to put things right.
Let me tell you a story. One day in 2002, when Will Riley returned home, he found Peter Woolf burgling his home. He confronted him, the two men fought and Will was left with a bleeding head and the overwhelming feeling that he could not protect his home or his young family. Peter was apprehended and sentenced to a few more years in prison to add to his career criminal history. Will next met Peter in a Restorative Justice meeting in a prison cell. Both men had been prepared and supported by a trained facilitator, who ran the meeting. Will got his questions answered and his peace of mind; Peter realised for the first time the impact of his actions, has not committed a crime since that day and works with Why me? to promote RJ in Britain and internationally. The Woolf Within is a gripping 10 minute film in which Peter and Will tell their story.
The power and potential for RJ to give victims back control over their lives is immense.
It can be used for any crime committed at any time. Rosalyn tells her story about being raped by a stranger and then going on to meet him in a Restorative Justice meeting. She made an informed choice about the meeting and it has transformed her life. Why me? help many victims to get access to RJ, who have been blocked and prevented from doing so by well-meaning or over-worked professionals. Time and time again, their feedback is overwhelmingly positive when they do manage to access RJ – “I went from being a victim to a victor after meeting him,” said one woman who was attacked by her ex-partner. 85% of victims stated they were satisfied following an RJ meeting according to Home Office randomised control trials. More recent returns from Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales show satisfaction ratings of up to 100%.
The beauty of RJ is that it not only helps victims get answers, it is also proven to reduce reoffending between 14-27%, which can only be good for communities, preventing more people becoming victims in the future.
RJ requires political leadership through clear policy guidelines, ministerial support and action plans; it requires understanding from professionals about what RJ is and how it works; the benefits for victims need to be promoted; and finally, the myth that it is a soft option for offenders has to be eliminated.
We welcome Community Justice Scotland’s support for restorative justice and will work to ensure that the restorative offer is made to all victims of crime and that RJ is accessible to victims when and where they want it.