Restorative justice values the voice of victims and works to protects their rights.  Another sad example of how our retributive justice system works to re-victimize victims, is the story of a woman whose voice was not heard or valued by the system.

The woman was 13 years old in 1977 when charges were brought against movie director Roman Polanski for sexually assaulting her.  Because Polanski fled the county before being sentenced for having sex with a minor, which he admitted, he has been sought ever since by the Los Angles prosecutor’s office.

The woman said, “I have become a victim of the actions of the district attorney.”

In an effort to protect her family and herself against the prosecutor’s actions, the woman went so far as to petition the LA criminal court herself to have the charges against Polanski dismissed.  She and her family have suffered emotional pain every time the facts of the case are retold.  Especially disturbing for the woman has been the prosecutor’s recent release of the entire grand jury hearing transcript.

Our retributive justice system is all about punishing offenders, and victims’ needs are basically ignored to further this goal.

In contrast restorative justice respects and cares about people’s needs, and gives victims the opportunity to find ways to meet their unique needs.  There is no excuse for not considering victims’ needs.  If the justice system cared more about their needs, there is a better chance that offenders would too.  Our current system models the very behavior we don’t want: revenge at the cost of hurting others.

Restorative justice can also be achieved without face to face meetings between offenders and victims.  In Hawai’i people have benefited from restorative interventions without such meetings.  Victims have been successfully protected and at the same time offenders have experienced reduced recidivism.  Please see publications on the Pono Kaulike program: http://www.uscourts.gov/fedprob/June_2009/FocusedApproaches.html