Restorative justice, self-indulgence and the trust we've lost
Happy International Restorative Justice Week 2017! It has become somewhat of a tradition to write my annual thoughts on restorative justice on the Sunday preceding our international celebrations! (For 2016 here, 2015 blog here, 2014 blog here, 2012 blog here). Every year, we learn something new about restorative justice, a concept that seems to be spreading without barriers or limitations. Before I expose my annual observations, a reminder and a disclaimer that I am the only person responsible for my views, which do not represent any organisation that I serve, work for or have come in contact with.
There can be no doubt that public trust in governments and their institutions has been declining. This blog does not offer the ground to present the reasons for this decline, which have been observed and studied by many over the last three decades. Justice and criminal justice institutions have not been exempted from this process. Courts, the police, probation, prosecution and all related services do not exist in a vacuum. They are developed and function within the societies that they are meant to serve. If they are structured within disempowering democracies, then the experience of the user will be one of disappointment.
This decline of trust is also very much linked with the perception and experience of justice and equality (or inequality). We do not need scientific evidence to conclude that the criminal justice system has flaws. We have been experiencing these flaws for many decades through its performance, costs and the feeling of safety that is meant to generate for everyone. Although the majority of the public do not engage in academic readings about facts and figures on wealth distribution, their living reality is what drives their fear and anxiety about justice its current system, which subsequently leads to disengagement and apathy.