Sievierodonetsk will implement restorative justice to help offenders make peace with their victims

In Sievierodonetsk, the Crisis Media Center "Siverskyi Donets" is introducing restorative justice for teenagers to take them away from the vicious circle of criminal justice.

On September 8, in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk Oblast, discussion entitled "Without trial and investigation - reconciliation between victim and offender" was held within the framework of the Festival of Thoughts, the Human Rights Information Center reports.

Restorative justice has been used in Sievierodonetsk for 9 months now. The Crisis Media Center has already trained 10 experts able to work with children that have committed their first crime.

The purpose of restorative justice is to help resolve conflicts and reduce crime rates. It involves the participation of sides of a conflict as well as the public in dealings with legal bodies. Restorative justice is supposed to strike a balance between the interests of the victim and society - and the need for the offender’s social reintegration. Such justice seeks to heal the victim, to try and convince the offender to admit guilt for this actions, and to allow all parties to take part in the justice process.

Restorative justice is a way to resolve a legal conflict by focusing on mitigating the harm done to the victim, bringing out a sense of responsibility in the offender, and involving the public in the conflict resolution process.

Involvement of parties is an important part of the process, with an emphasis on establishing a connection, reconciliation and agreement between the victims and offenders as to the desired outcome and reparation.

The initiative’s authors see the value and main goal of restorative justice in keeping teenagers away from prisons, which are likely to turn them into hardened criminals, as they lack the proper environment for nurturing a child’s personality.

Human rights defender Oleksandra Dvoretska

“Everyone believes for some reason that whoever ends up in a penal institution deserves to suffer. There should be mold and cold and hard mattresses. You might think that prisons’ main task, as in that Foucault book, is to watch and punish. With this approach, there can be no hope of rehabilitation. On the other hand, when I read Nils Christie's A Suitable Amount of Crime about the practice of mediation, I realized that people work even with grave crimes in other countries, and their societies are OK with this, We need to change our approach as well. If we make it the government’s task to make the criminal suffer, we shouldn’t be surprised that he holds a grudge against the society that cost him years of suffering and applauded this,” says Oleksandra Dvoretska, executive director of the Vostok SOS NGO. 

As part of meetings with psychologists, restorative justice involves not just the victim and offender, but all those affected, one way or another, by the crime. This makes it possible to analyze the crime from all angles.

Restorative justice helps victims deal with their emotions and the fear that the same thing could happen to them again. It helps the victim understand why the offender did what he did, while showing the offender what consequences his actions had.

“Many victims retreat into themselves. They are afraid that it could happen again and feel that something is wrong with them if they became a target of a crime. Restorative justice allows both parties to accept their emotions and remain, not friends perhaps, but at least people able to greet each other on the streets,” says restorative justice expert Daryna Kartashova

Experts give the following reasons why offenders need restorative justice: 

– confidentiality of conflict resolution;

– chance to avoid punishment, e.g. criminal record, prison, etc.; 

– desire to “not become enemies”;

– chance to avoid being branded a criminal and ostracized; the wish to be part of society again;

– chance to voice one’s civic stance regarding an incident rather than being a passive spectator;

– desire to communicate one’s perspective to the other side;

– desire to understand the actual effects of one’s actions and to ask the victim questions. 

Lyudmyla Yankina, project head at the Human Rights Information Center, considers the stance of judges toward the implementation of restorative justice paradoxical.

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