Criminal Justice 2008

What is restorative justice?

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SORI – victim of burglary and murder

Uploaded at: 2011. 02. 07.


SORI: Supporting Offenders through Restoration Inside (Cardiff, UK)

Heather’s house had been burgled 20 years before, and then ten years later a close friend was murdered. She recounted her experience:

Burglary – “My house was burgled when I was away on holiday. A lot of my personal possessions were taken. It felt as though my own private space had been invaded and spoiled. They went through personal things like family photographs. My house was no longer a home. I felt unsafe. Added to this there were five offenders, four of whom were sent to prison. One got probation and he moved into his house directly opposite mine – I fell he was watching me every day – I had to leave my home.”

Murder – “My close friend (and the mother of my daughter’s best friend) was murdered along with another person. The first feelings were of total disbelief, great sorrow, loss, confusion and total devastation. Anger then set in, I wanted revenge. Then I felt anger at myself for feeling that way. I wanted to take the pain away from the children and Cherry’s relatives. I then questioned: why and what if? Could I have done anything to have stopped it happening? The pain and torture that Cherry must have gone through still makes me feel sick. The two murderers were found and convicted. Both are still in prison although I don’t know where. One keeps appealing against his conviction.”

Speaking about the lasting effects, she said:

Burglary – “I am more cautious now and I tend to worry about my home more than I used to. But this has eased a lot due to the timescale of when this happened.”

Murder – “I still feel complete loss, sadness and sorrow. I still think of what Cherry would be doing if she were here now. However, the feelings of revenge have gone.”

In preparation for her participation in a meeting involving two offenders who had committed similar crimes, she was asked if she might have particular questions. She said:

“Why? Why me? Why Cherry? Did you not think that you would be taking a mother away from her children? Do you regret what you have done? What were your thoughts, feelings at the time/before/after? How could you have caused so much pain?”

“But I also want to understand what their life circumstances were that caused them to behave in the way they did. How do they think their families have dealt with their actions? Will this help them to adjust their behaviour to prevent them re-offending?”

The SORI programme arranged small group meetings between carefully matched victims and offenders (who had taken part in victim awareness courses). Heather’s group included two lifer prisoners who had murdered someone. After the meeting she said:

“The meeting was useful in giving me a voice as a victim to say what had happened to me – the chance to understand ‘Why me?’, etc. Also to understand offenders and what makes them offend – and to realise that we are all people! It was very emotionally draining and I would have liked more time, but it was very worthwhile. Although they were not able to answer specific questions because they were not the actual offenders in my case, some of my general questions were answered – they were able to say how they felt at the time of their offence and how they feel now. I don’t think my behaviour has changed, but I do feel much lighter as I was able to share my experiences, which is something I have never done before. I also feel reassured that I am not completely mad and that the feelings I have are the same as others in similar situations. I know that the feelings I am getting are being felt by others and are not just specific to me – plus the offender also has feelings of a very similar nature. After talking to them and listening to their stories, I am surprised at how easily any one of us could get ourselves into situations that we are not able to deal with, and that we could find ourselves in their positions”

Source: Marian Liebmann’s book, ‘Restorative Justice: How it works’ (2007, Jessica Kingsley Publishers)

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