Monday, September 19, 2011

Restorative Justice and Relatedness - Self Determination Theory

Unlike the adversarial legal system , Restorative Justice supports the human needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness .

Our present court process based on the adversarial legal system undermines  ' relatedness' in the community and more.

 A sentencing process is ' done to the offender '  who then  goes to prison feeling wronged. This explains the high rates of recidivism of criminals – returning to the prison system. 

Instead of helping offenders reflect on the impact and consequences of their actions on others and then in an autonomous way engage in the moral act of restitution and repair the damage done to relationships in the community , the system teaches people that their mistake was being caught and what happens to you  if you are caught.

Restorative Justice   is an approach to justice serves the needs of relatedness of both the victim and offender  in the context of their families and community.  

In the ' Paintball ' case a teenager expressed his anger and frustration to peer rejection – he could not go paintballing with his cousins -  by  grabbing a paintball gun from the car trunk and shooting it into a crowd of girls, blinding a girl in one eye. The offender appeared in juvenile court and pleaded guilty. 

In the presentencing phase of a criminal trial, the probation  officer   typically conducts an investigation of the offense and the circumstances surrounding it, obtains the victim's statement, and makes a recommendation to the court.

 In the paintball case, the court approved a presentencing conference. Fifteen people — an astonishing number — attended the conference and an equally astonishing four-hour conference resulted in an opportunity for the offender, his family, the victim and her family, as well as members of the community to share their stories about the incident.

 The offender and his family assumed  financial   responsibility for the expenses incurred by the victim and her family. The offender made his apology, offered to donate part of his eye if that would bring back her sight and made a commitment to advocate against playing with paintball guns.

The case allowed the family of the offender to come forward , acknowledge their responsibility in the incident and make amends by making financial and other contributions to the victim and her family. The young offender in an autonomous way offered to donate his eye and advocate against paintballing. It was important to hear from the victim that she wanted to see the offender express remorse and regret about her loss and suffering , he would change himself from the inside and help make sure that kids and parents would be more aware of the dangers of paintballing so nobody would get injured. 

The restorative justice helped build community bonds that were not there before – the common interest  and empathy of the 2 families and a process for solving problems on a community level.

The traditional court process is artificial and ritualized . Restorative justice supports peoples' autonomy  -   by allowing them to come forward in an autonomous way and engage in restitution,  competence  -  problem solving and reconciliation skills , relatedness – express feelings , desire to make amends, forgive and engage in reconciliation.

The CPS - collaborative problem solving approach would in addition acknowledge the teenager's lagging skills - frustration toleration, impulsiveness, forethought etc and encourage caregivers to use CPS in their dealings with him.


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