Violence, victimisation and parole: Reconciling restorative justice and victim participation
When a crime is committed and an offender is incarcerated, victims and offenders are denied agency in influencing the outcome of the criminal justice process, resulting in harmful consequences for both. On the one hand, there is growing consensus that the criminal justice system does not treat victims well. On the other, high levels of violent crime in the country, coupled with society’s call for stiffer sentences, have seen growing numbers of inmates receiving longer prison sentences, due in part to the minimum sentence legislation. Restorative approaches to justice have the potential to recognise the injustice caused not only by the crime itself, but also by the structural injustice experienced by the offender. The key question is how to respond to the intergenerational effects of historical injustices and victimisation that so often result in identity switches: from vulnerable victim to violent offender. This article elaborates on restorative approaches to corrections at the parole phase and the implementation of these approaches through the victim offender dialogue programme, and questions whether due regard is being paid to the needs and rights of victims.