The real world crisis & restorative justice

Governments around the world, the media and many intellectuals had us convinced that we are living a period when financial resources are more scarce than during the World War II era. Having observed this period at personal and research levels, I believe that the world economic crisis, which started with the Great Recession in the US in 2007, made us feel our future is in a deadlock with despair replacing hope. Subsequently, the rest of the world’s populations may be considered as living their lives without any prospect of survival considering the deprivation of essential commodities and basic amenities afflicting these populations. In this absolute despair, fear is created and through this fear control.

Corporate crimes, money laundering and the lack of ethics in businesses, banks and large online enterprises are all accepted as the norm. Habermas poignantly observes that we are living in the crisis of a ‘post democratic’ era, which is characterized by a more capitalist and market oriented functioning of democracy (Habermas, 2012). The representational and equal political systems that we set up through international conventions and long fought campaigns are being replaced by new orders where financial clout increasingly dominates the democratic system and political success. This system has led to a financial calamity and leads to despair in the developed world (Dorling, 2011).

Ask any first year psychology student and they will tell you that for any individual to develop their potential and thrive, first there needs to be a sense of self-pride and a set of personal goals. Remove these and independently of the social, societal, biological, political factors that may be evoked, we should expect to see a life of underachievement and likely criminality. “We learn best in stimulating environments when we feel sure we can succeed. When we feel happy or confident our brains benefit from the release of dopamine, the reward chemical which also helps with memory, attention and problem solving” (Wilkinson & Picket 2009: 115). In the current climate of financial terror, ask a young person independently of their country of origin and they will tell you that they are not special.

This defeatist attitude is also what informs our criminal justice systems. This approach has traditionally focused on all that is wrong with the offender (psychologically, socially, biologically etc.). It looks for their vices and vulnerabilities, their addiction, their social and financial problems, their broken relationships and their distorted view of the world and then asks us to fix them. Consequently, our energy and care are given to minimising risk through treatment programmes.