What is largely missing from this mixture of deterrence, retribution and rehabilitation is restorative justice. The victims of crime have no place in this system. Although the regime includes an hour working for charity, this is a depersonalised form of restoration.
Other countries, most notably New Zealand, have developed systems of family group conferences for the type of young offender who, in England, will be selected from the Thorn Cross unit. The offender and his/her family and friends meet their victims, with a state mediator, and together work out what the offender shall do to right the wrong and what help is needed to reinstate the offender into society. Of course this does not always work; but it appears at least as likely to succeed as any other approach, and it is a more humane and ethically defensible way to deal with fellow citizens.
Professor of Social Work
University of Bristol
19 SeptemberReuse content