What about the vic­tims?

North & South - - Cover Story Part Two -

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.”

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