Criminal Justice 2008

What is restorative justice?

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Report for the period 01/10/2010 – 31/12/2010

Uploaded at: 2011. 02. 01.

Author: Tim Steudel

Within the MeRePS (Mediation and Restorative Justice in Prison Settings) project in the indicated period the co-operation relationships have been extended and the mediation activities intensified. One first case could be finished (see below). Meanwhile the number of inquiries for the realisation of a Täter-Opfer-Ausgleich with imprisoned adult offenders has increased strongly. Concerning this, the attempt to contact the total management of the Oslebshausen prison remained up to now, however, unanswered. Because of the relatively small time budget of five hours a week the cases could partly only be handled with considerable waiting times.

In the context of an international specialist exchange with colleagues from Leuven, Belgium (like professors for criminal law, employees from custody institutions and RJ organisations etc.) further findings could be gathered for the local case processing.  Finally in September a compartment meeting to current problems of the execution of sentence took place in Bremen. By participating there, further contacts could be linked and some more questions could be answered.

II. Case study

Egon  from Kazakhstan, 21 years, convicted on account of aggravated robberies to a prison sentence of 4 years and 3 months.
Egon was born and raised in Germany, his childhood and youth have been sheltered. The robberies have been committed within a short period of time. Until then he had no previous convictions. While committing the criminal act Egon initially did not see himself as the main force. For him his accomplices were responsible for the development, resolution and enforcement of the criminal acts. In the course of the dialogue he abandoned his defensive demeanour and altercated actively with the victims´ experiences of his criminal acts. Now he seems to be interested in a serious dialogue with and about the victims and their feelings.
The further sessions Egon joins accompanied by his mother. Contrary to him she is a petite woman with a strong Russian accent. It becomes obvious that she is worrying a lot about her son. Because Egon did not fulfill the agreed arrangement (to write an letter of excuse) repeatedly, the time was used to talk about the history of the family. The mother reports immense problems with the integration process in Kazakhstan (she is German) and later in Germany as well. Egon explains that he too had to fight wih this problems over and over, even though he was born in Germany. Respect and acceptanz seem to be the central ideas in the being of all family members. When his mother reports about her reaction to the imprisonment of his son silence fell. The description of a collapse followed by a clinic residence makes Egon slump. During the following sessions a new dynamic of dialogue and an advanced takeover of responsibility develops within Egon. He promises to formulate an letter of excuse. At the same time the attempt to get data of the victims was started. As Egon was not convicted in Bremen the getting data turns out to be a quite difficult undertaking. After three months the data has still not been delivered at the TOA.

After an extensive research the victims data have finally been received at the TOA. Due to the numerous accusations the list of victims is quite long. Together with Egon an emphasis or rather a sequence of the cases with the potential to reconciliate was discussed in advance which after all resulted in contacting a female victim of one particular robbery. A traumaletter was verbalized and sent to the victim. After a long time without any reaction, the victim eventually answered via telephone. She is quite doubtful and wants to think about the participation. She assured to answer again but did not leave her telephone number. After a second very carefully verbalized letter she answers again via the answering machine, but still does not leave a phone number.

Several months without further contact have passed by until Ms Radschlag called once again. She still was very cautious and reserved, but also quite curious. It became clear, that during the day and on bright days Ms Radschlag can cope with the experienced. At night and in the dark seasons like autumn and winter however the memories still stress her heavily. After a detailed telephone call in which many questions were answered a first conversation appointment could be aranged.

During the first personal conversation Ms Radschlag gave the impression to be very self-confident and interested. Only in the course of the further meetings, after general questions have been cleared and a confidential atmosphere was created, Ms Radschlag approved emotions. For Ms Radschlag the incident is still very present, this became clear through a detailed description of event. She explained how shocked she had been after the incident and that she, however, had wanted to go on working to distract herself. A conversation with an internal psychologist she had refused at this former time. Despite of her personal load she was quite interested in the offender. Indeed she could not comprehend Egon's behaviour since he lost his apprenticeship training position through it and through the imprisonment had obstructed his future. During the hearing she had had, however, the feeling he would regret his action - unlike his abettors. Meanwhile, because of Egon´s imprisonment, she put aside her initial objections Egon would use the TOA exclusively for strategic reasons. She liked that he had made an effort for a meeting despite the fact that his imprisonment was over and seemed to have realized what he had done. She had great fear to meet him but nevertheless wanted it to happen. She hoped that by meeting him and talking to him the load would maybe be taken from her shoulders and that she can at last finish with the happened.
After this conversation with Ms Radschlag, Egon was reported the development. He seemed very relieved since he was worrying over whether the victim would be willing to do a TOA.

Finally a meeting between Ms Radschlag and Egon was arranged. At this first meeting the strain of the two of them could be sensed clearly. Their looks did not meet. Shame, insecurity, rage and fear filled the room. In the progress of the conversation however a common level developed. Both pages became accustomed to the situation, provided confidence and became increasingly more self-confident. An intimate conversation developed during which both pages opened up and talked about their experiences, their feelings and their handling with the event honestly. Egon describes how the relation to his mother has suffered from the happened and how he has been ashamed - after he put himself into the situation of Ms Radschlag - and how difficult it now is sitting face to face with her. Ms Radschlag on the other hand reports from her handling with the psychological problems, from the fear while walking home alone at night and the quarrels she had with her husband because of the incident. Both pay great attention to each other and express huge respect due to their respective frankness and sincerity during this meeting. Concluding they shake hands without being asked and look each other into the eyes for a long time. The relief is to be sensed clearly and on demand they both declare that they feel much better now. After the result of the meeting was set out in a written arbitration agreement and given the two of them, they leave the room together.

After the feedback was sent to Egon´s probation officer and to the execution of sentence chamber, the case has officially been closed.

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