What about the victims?
The needs of the victims of crime go unmet by the current emphasis on punishment, believes former Prison Service head Kim Workman, now a research fellow at Victoria University’s Institute of Criminology. “We haven’t properly invested in victims,” he says. “There’s been a focus on victims’ rights rather than victims’ needs. Also, we define victims only in terms of the immediate personal victim. We disregard the wider family and how the traumatising effect sometimes spreads into a whole community.”
The face-to-face encounter that is central to the restorative justice process is particularly healing. “We had victims coming five or six years later, saying, ‘I can’t get that offender out of my mind. I want to tell him exactly what he did. I want to meet with him.’”
Workman says 93% of victims who went through the process said they’d recommend it. “Their message was often, ‘I thought I was going to meet a monster but I met a socially pathetic individual who I felt sorry for’, and what a help that was. Victims feel much better represented and assisted by that process than having the person who did something to them taken away and that’s it. They’re locked out of the process by that.”