There have been lots of examples of punishment of innocent people, which is regarded as unacceptable in contemporary society. Thus, realms of restorative justice and wrongful conviction come into play. Latimer et al. (2005, p. 127) claim that restorative justice “is emerging as an increasingly important element in mainstream criminological practice” as people try to achieve the satisfaction of all stakeholders.
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It is important to make the offender admit guilt and try to change for the better. At the same time, the victim has a chance to face the offender and discuss the wrongful act, which can help the victim recover from the crime (Boyd, 2010). The realm of wrongful conviction is also aimed at ensuring real justice.
No person can be convicted with the help of wrongful actions as this undermines the very idea of legal society. The two realms can improve the legal system, which has a lot of flaws. However, the restorative justice and the realm of wrongful conviction also have several downsides which need careful consideration.
Definitions of Restorative Justice and Wrongful Conviction
Definition of Restorative Justice
It is necessary to analyze the strengths of the two realms to fully understand the downsides of these principles. In the first place, it is important to understand what restorative justice and wrongful conviction are. Latimer et al. (2005, p. 128) claim that the major purpose of justice is not just to punish a guilty person, but “to repair the harm caused” by the offense. The stakeholders should learn the lesson.
Thus, the offender should never commit a new crime, the victim should recover from the wrongful act completely, and people should create a community where committing a crime is simply impossible. Having this in mind, it is possible to define restorative justice as “a process whereby all the parties…
Come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offense and its implications for the future” (as cited in Latimer et al., 2005, p. 128). Restorative justice is aimed at diminishing the aftermaths of the wrongful act and preventing the guilty person from committing crimes in the future. This can eventually lead to a better society.
Definition of Wrongful Conviction
As far as the wrongful conviction is concerned, this realm ensures the right of a person to have a transparent legal procedure. Many people claim that procedural errors undermine the major principles of justice and overshadow the major question, i.e., if the person is guilty or not. It is believed that procedural errors often distort the case. It can be difficult to define the concept as it is rather broad.
Roberts and Weathered (2009, p. 49) note that a person is wrongfully convicted “if there were procedural or legal errors upon which he or she can found a successful appeal.” In other words, no trial is potentially free from procedural errors. It is necessary to remember that people can come to wrong conclusions as even such evidence as DNA tests can be interpreted differently. Therefore, no one can be sure that the wrongfully convicted person is guilty or not guilty.
Strengths of Restorative Justice and Wrongful Conviction
Admittedly, the two realms are based on principles which can make a difference. As far as the restorative justice is concerned, it is important to improve the relationship among the members of the community as it ensures its proper development. Latimer et al. (2005) stress that this is crucial for the community as people can recover from aftermaths of wrongful acts.
The researchers argue that those who participate in the programs related to restorative justice reveal greater satisfaction. More so, Latimer et al. (2005) state that the offenders who have participated in the programs are eager to start a new life. Admittedly, this is one of the most important advantages of restorative justice.
When it comes to the realm of wrongful conviction, the benefits of the incentives are two-sided. On the one hand, numerous incentives which are being launched help people to prove their innocence. Roberts and Weathered (2009) mentioned several cases when innocent people were released.
The researchers also note that there are cases when it is obvious as the tiniest mistake can affect the decision of the jury of the judge. Numerous cases of wrongful conviction also reveal flaws in the system, which is important since people can improve it. The realm of wrongful conviction can diminish the flaws of the legal system and make it fair, transparent, and accessible.
Potential Weaknesses of Restorative Justice and Wrongful Conviction
Nonetheless, the two realms have certain weaknesses that must be addressed. In the first place, it is necessary to research the effectiveness of restorative justice. Latimer et al. (2005) admit that there are several limitations to their research. Thus, recidivism cannot be properly estimated as the research involves quite recent cases.
Admittedly, years are necessary to prove that there is no recidivism. Apart from this, the samples of the research mentioned above are rather homogenous, i.e., convicts were mainly young males (Latimer et al., 2005). It is important to research the effects of the program on other groups of convicts.
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Furthermore, participation in the program is voluntary. Therefore, the convicts participating in the program are well-motivated. Their commitment to change and make it up for the society cannot be explained by the participation in the program. It is the convict’s desire, not the program, which makes him/her change.
Besides, the programs often require the participation of victims (Latimer et al., 2005). The realm of restorative justice presupposes the participation of all stakeholders, which is crucial. However, a lot of victims can find it emotionally difficult to face the offender and start a discussion, which is a considerable weakness of the realm.
The realm of wrongful conviction also needs thorough consideration. One of the major weaknesses of this realm is that it is difficult to make sure that guilt is determined properly. The realm tends to focus on the procedure, while the fact of guilt is overshadowed. Admittedly, this realm can be used by guilty people who could try to get away with their wrongful acts (Roberts & Weathered, 2009).
Procedural transparency is essential, but it should not distort the legal process in any way. Besides, Roberts and Weathered (2009) claim that lots of people face bureaucratic difficulties which prevent them from participating in the programs. The program can be effective when it is accessible. Inaccessibility of programs related to the realm of wrongful conviction is one of its weaknesses.
To sum up, it is possible to note that restorative justice and wrongful conviction remain burning legal issues. These realms have strengths, but there are also significant weaknesses which are to be addressed. Admittedly, the realms of restorative justice and wrongful conviction have helped many people prove their innocence.
As for restorative justice, it is necessary to consider ways to make it more common, i.e., to encourage convicts, victims, and community members to participate in the programs. These programs should also be made more accessible. One of the first steps to achieve the goals mentioned above is to implement further (and more detailed) research of the two realms and their implications.
Boyd, N. (2010). Canadian law: An introduction. Toronto, Canada: Nelson Education.
Latimer, J., Dowden, C., & Muise, D. (2005). The effectiveness of restorative justice practices: A meta-analysis. The Prison Journal, 85(2), 127-144.
Roberts, S., & Weathered, L. (2009). Assisting the factually innocent: The contradictions and compatibility of innocence projects and the criminal cases review commission. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 29(1), 43-70.