The restorative justice process is voluntary. Adult offenders are given a choice of whether to participate in the program. While victims are encouraged to participate in the process, the offender can complete the full-circle process even if the victim does not participate. The process does not take the place of the judicial system, rather it adds to it. Adult offenders participate with the approval of the court.
Many adult offenders have a history of minor crimes from youth onward while others have committed an isolated offense. Restorative justice programs have shown that when adult offenders are provided with support and treated with dignity, they are more likely to respond to a system that retrains thought and action. It is reasonable to expect improvements in their attitudes as they recognize how their actions affect victims, families and others in the community. When a face is put on the crime, the offender is often eye-to-eye with new and deeper self-emotion that can motivate them to change their patterns.
Accountability calls for taking positive responsibility for actions and making restitution. As with youth offenders, the ultimate goal is to prevent adult repeat offenses because the offender has achieved a deeper understanding of how his/her behavior affects other people rather than fear of punishment. Real accountability takes on new meaning when growth in character and compassion through restorative justice practices offers offenders new skills for making better choices in the future. Many offenders earn a second chance to become productive citizens of their communities, holding jobs, raising families and making significant contributions. When offenders begin to leave their fingerprints on society in a positive way rather than in the court record, it leads to safer, happier communities.
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