Restorative Justice: Differences between the US and UK

First: Politics

This is one more area where the UK and the US are miles apart. In the United States prosecutors often go into politics as a career so being strong on crime and talking the rhetoric helps in their campaigns. To have any chance of moving forward all political parties need to be targeted at the same time, there is little point in persuading one politician or political party to be more understanding as this will just leave the door open for his or her opposition to jump in with the policy they are stronger on crime and sentencing. They also need to be tackled at the right time; your political system seems to run on a four year cycle. There is very little point in lobbying any politicians to be more compassionate towards offenders in the final 2 years of any administration as they will not want to seem weak on the crime ticket and also be already campaigning for the next elections. The day after any vote is the day to start.

Second: Education

The public need to be educated more [on] what a full life sentence [really] means and who this will affect. They need to know all the different issues including joint enterprise sentencing, automatic life without taking into account the different circumstances for the crime. And what if it was their son or daughter were caught up in a compromising situation, how would they feel?

Third: Victims

I believe the most important are the victims. This is obviously a very delicate area, but I believe that if a victim is part of the justice system from the very beginning they will be more likely to be more compassionate further down the line. My understanding and research has shown that if a victim of a violent crime can be involved from the outset through a police liaison officer and then the prosecutor plus the courts there is much more of a chance that later on in the process they may show more empathy towards the offender and their families. If the victims are asked to be involved perhaps with initial sentencing, and also given the chance to speak to the court with an impact statement they will be more understanding in the long run. You may think that asking the victim to be a part of the process may have an adverse affect, and it would seem so, but a victim who has contact with the court [throughout] the process [as well as] the offender’s family, has a far better chance to be more lenient in years to come. A victim that can completely shut out the crime and the terrible circumstances from the start will also try to forget all about the offender. Its easier. This is also the area where restorative justice can help if the victims know that they will have the chance to meet the offender or the offender’s family at some stage from the outset then there is more chance they may agree to meet after time, when thoughts are not as raw.

Once the victim and offender have met either face to face or through correspondence a release process could perhaps start with the victim working closely with the parole board.

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