Restorative justice and restitution provide room for discussion between the victims and the offender to assess the impact of offense while offering a chance for reparation to both parties. The brutal murdering of a family member provided in the scenario triggers some ethical considerations. As such, the affected family needs to integrate moral philosophies such as the Kantian and Utilitarian theories in handling the forgiveness plea made by the inmate on death row. The loss of their loved one has resulted in negative implications for the greater majority concerned in the matter. Further, the offender failed to consider his moral obligation to respect the victim’s right to life. As such, ethical factors influence the penalty subjected to the offender. However, before meeting the offender, the family members need to consider ethical decision-making processes to gauge the moral grounds that influence their decision of whether or not to forgive the offender.
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Brutal murders usually leave irreparable damages to the victims, especially family members. The justice systems in various societies offer victims of such crimes restorative justice and restitution. Restorative justice accords the victim of an opportunity for empowerment through communication with the perpetrator (Johnstone, 2013). Communication fosters the acquisition of information regarding the circumstances that trigger the offense besides the resultant impacts. Restitution seeks to offer reparation of the damage induced by a crime (Braswell, McCarthy, & McCarthy, 2014). This paper is based on a scenario that highlights a situation where the inmate on death row seeks forgiveness through the restorative justice process.
Concepts and Purposes of Restorative Justice and Restitution
Restorative justice entails an interaction between a convicted offender and the victim for the sake of providing the latter with key information about the impact of the committed crime. Importantly, restorative justice advocates for the need to embrace ethical values and principles to ensure that both the victim and the offender benefit (Johnstone, 2013). Therefore, amid other determinants of justice, including legislative decrees and majority opinion, there is a need for the human rights activists to consider the ethical aspects of restorative justice. In this light, integrating ethical principles such as the Kantian theory and Utilitarianism is relevant.
The purpose of restorative justice is to offer mediation between the victim and the offender. The mediation allows the parties involved to participate actively and/or foster an understanding of the conflict or disagreement that leads to the crime (Johnstone, 2013). Further, the process allows the victims to assess the actual impact of the crime. Additionally, the process provides the convicted individuals an opportunity to account for their actions, thus taking responsibility while making the necessary behavior amendments. On the other hand, restitution infers to the in-kind services and monetary payment offered by the offender to the victim for the harm or damage caused. Therefore, restitution may be viewed as compensation made by the offender to the victim since the process seeks to restore the damage, loss, or indemnification suffered by the victim. However, based on ethics, one would question the benefits of restitution to the greater majority bearing in mind the severity of the harm caused by the crime.
The purpose of restitution is to facilitate reparation of the relational or financial harm induced by the aftermath of a given crime. Further, restitution facilitates the commemoration of a reparation gesture following the offender’s acknowledgment of the committed crime (Van Ness & Strong, 2014). Moreover, restitution seeks to rehabilitate the offenders instead of punishing them through incarceration. Therefore, restitution is beneficial to both the lawbreakers and the victims since it provides a chance for the former to undergo rehabilitation as the latter class undergoes reparation after the offense (Zehr, 2015).
Ethical Issues Related to Restorative Justice and Restitution
Ethical considerations influence the concepts of restorative justice and restitution considerably. The Kantian theory of ethics underlines that an individual has a moral duty to act in an ethical manner. Therefore, failure to perform a moral duty should hold individuals accountable for their actions (Braswell et al., 2014). In this regard, murdering another person brutally is considered an offense punishable by law. This decision is reached since the offender has already failed to observe his or her moral duty of respecting the victim’s right to life. Engaging in the restorative justice process provides the affected victims an opportunity to understand the circumstances surrounding the case in the process of evaluating the relevance of the offender’s conviction (Johnstone, 2013).
Utilitarianism underlines that action should qualify as ethical if it yields maximum benefits to the greatest majority (Braswell et al., 2014). For instance, the actions of the offender in the provided scenario resulted in harm to the majority of the family members, thereby denoting the immorality of the committed crime. Thus, the restorative justice process offers the victims a meeting with the offender to determine the validity of the judgment based on the involved moral grounds (Johnstone, 2013). As such, the suffering individuals have a voice on the matter through the integration of the utilitarian theory.
Retribution allows the reparation of damages caused by an unethical act. With respect to the Kantian theory, the offender should take responsibility after causing harm to the victim. Thus, repairing the harm induced to the victim through in-kind or monetary offers is a form of the offender taking responsibility. However, some advocates underline that felonies such as murder do not warrant restitution, owing to the priceless value of life (Goodwin, Grenig, & Fishbach, 2008). Further, murderers are a threat to the majority in society. Thus, utilitarian ethics supporters see no point in retribution to such offenders.
Implications of Restorative Justice
The process of restorative justice has several implications for the victims. Concerning the scenario, both the victim and the offender would understand the consequences of the offense. Further, the restorative justice program offers the victims with satisfaction regarding the fairness of the sentence received by the offender (Johnstone, 2013). On the other hand, restorative justice programs expose the privacy and security of the victims (Braswell et al., 2014). The offender’s plea for forgiveness would pose privacy and security risks to the victims, regardless of whether they agree or disagree to consider forgiveness a restoration of their relationship. As such, it is upon the victims to consider either gaining satisfaction on the fairness of the punishment subjected to the offender or exposing their privacy through the restorative justice program (Van Camp & Wemmers, 2013).
The Ethical Decision-making Process for Approaching the Situation
Undoubtedly, the family’s participation in the restorative justice meeting is essential. The decisions they would arrive at should consider ethical aspects that affect both the victims and the culprit. Further, the process facilitates the establishment of relevant questions to ask in the meeting. First, the collection of facts is central in guiding the uprightness of moral judgments. The facts provide a comprehensive understanding of the events that lead to the brutal murder of the family member. The facts also justify the actions made by the court to convict the offender on death row. Second, the ethical decision-making process would entail forecasting the future after taking a particular action. Importantly, actions have implications that require consideration by the team (Van Ness & Strong, 2014). Thus, families should predict the detriments of exposing their privacy in the meeting with the offender.
Third, the identification of feelings is also crucial in the ethical decision-making process (Braswell et al., 2014). The emotions involved after the loss of the loved one should also influence the consideration of the forgiveness plea. Thus, if forgiving the offender would ignite positive feeling among the majority of the family members, giving room for restitution would be reasonable (Goodwin et al., 2008). Fourth, there is a need to consider if the choices made bear benefits to the individuals, as well as others (Goodwin et al., 2008). Applying the utilitarian perspective in the decision-making process denotes the essence of accepting or turning down the forgiveness pleas by the convicted offender. At the end of the meeting, the decision should make the majority happy.
Lastly, there is the need to interact with others to acquire their perceptions regarding the decisions made (Braswell et al., 2014). The family members need to scrutinize the conclusion made regarding the restorative process as a way of evaluating its moral grounds. Therefore, the family members involved should realize a consensus regarding whether it is ethically right or wrong to forgive the offender after the brutal murder of one of their own.
Conclusively, when meeting the offender, the family may consider the following list of questions to ask the lawbreaker.
- What triggered you to commit brutal murder?
- Are you aware that it is essential to respect another individual’s right to life?
- Did you consider the consequences of the crime after before committing it?
- How would restitution restore the life we have lost as a family?
Braswell, M. C., McCarthy, B. R., & McCarthy, B. J. (2014). Justice, crime, and ethics. London: Routledge.
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Goodwin, C. M., Grenig, J. E., & Fishbach, N. A. (2008). Federal criminal restitution. Eagan, MN: Thomson/West.
Johnstone, G. (2013). Restorative justice: Ideas, values, debates. London: Routledge.
Van Camp, T., & Wemmers, J. A. (2013). Victim satisfaction with restorative justice: More than simply procedural justice. International Review of Victimology, 19(2), 117-143.
Van Ness, D. W., & Strong, K. H. (2014). Restoring justice: An introduction to restorative justice. New York, NY: Springer International Publishing.
Zehr, H. (2015). The little book of restorative justice: Revised and updated. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.