Victim Resource Center of the Finger Lakes, Inc. 

RESTORATIVE & PARALLEL JUSTICE

Restorative Justice is a holistic and integrated theory of justice that focuses on repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior. The concept is to “restore” the victim to her/his life before the crime. While the victim can never totally recover or be “restored.” The concept is to assist the victim in the healing process, to identify and involve stakeholders, hold the offender/perpetrator accountable for the crime, and bring the community together. 

Some of the outcomes identified by this process include family group conferencing, circle sentencing, victim assistance, ex-offender assistance, victim-offender mediation (VOM), restitution, and community involvement and service. This process creates opportunities for victims, offenders, and community members to meet to discuss the crime and the consequences of the crime. It also expects perpetrators to accept responsibility and take the necessary steps in this process to repair the harm they have caused; it seeks to restore victims, and perpetrators to whole, contributing members of society, if possible; and to provide opportunities for the stakeholders to participate in the resolution.

Conventional justice systems have been referred to as “retributive justice” focusing on the laws and punishing the offender. Restorative justice focuses on who has been harmed, including the victim, her/his family, the family of the offender, and the community at large; on how these harms can be addressed or repaired; who should address or repair the harms; and restoring those harmed to some semblance of peace and security. This process is a great responsibility for those participating, with risks of re-traumatizing the victim when the focus is redirected from justice for the victim, to healing for the offender. Each situation is unique and should be recognized as such. Trauma is the common denominator, with healing and restoration the common goals. When the process works there is an opportunity for healing and justice.

Parallel Justice “underscores the need to create a separate path to justice for victims—apart from the criminal justice system, but relating to it. Parallel Justice is distinctive in several ways. It can serve all victims of crime and it marshals a wider range of resources to address victims’ safety, and their immediate and long-term needs. In addition, beyond the restorative justice roles for offenders and communities, in a system of parallel justice, there is also a role for society at large, represented by the state, in repairing the harm. Along with families, neighbors, and offenders, society as a whole would be asked to play a role in acknowledging the harm and helping victims of crime rebuild their lives. Although restorative justice offers many benefits to victims, our society owes victims much more. Every crime has a victim and every victim needs our help.”

Restorative Justice can serve only a small number of victims. Restorative Justice does not address many critical needs of victims. Restorative Justice provides no active role for the government in rebuilding victims’ lives. Parallel Justice envisions a very different response to crime. It addresses many of the limitations of our traditional criminal justice and restorative justice paradigms and draws upon the strengths of each. Parallel Justice provides two separate paths to justice—one for victims and one for offenders.” Susan Herman, Executive Director, National Center for Victims of Crime
 
Contact the Victim Resource Center of the Finger Lakes, Inc. at 315-331-1171 x300 for more information.