Evaluating Victims Experiences in Restorative Justice

Published 11/06/2008
Type Article
Author(s) Antony Pemberton
Corresponding Authors Antony Pemberton, Frans-Willem Winkel and Marc S. Groenhuijsen, Tilburg University, International Victimology Institute

Although restorative justice is often presented as a victim-oriented reform of criminal justice procedures, there is a relative dearth of research and theory into the experiences of victims within restorative justice. Recently Heather Strang, Lawrence Sherman and their associates (2003, 2004, 2006) started to develop theory and research that attempts to fill this relative void. This article is an attempt to contribute to the further understanding of the effects of restorative justice conferencing on victims. Taking Strang and Sherman’s work as a starting point, it discusses various issues relating to research and theory of victims within restorative justice.

First of all there is the need to pay more attention to victim variety within research into restorative justice. Needs, opinions and traits of victims differ from one victim to the next and one situation to the next. Generalized needs therefore must be qualified. Secondly the comparison between criminal justice and restorative justice is complicated. The independent effect of the criminal justice system on victims makes it difficult to use it as the control group for restorative justice conferences. In addition it is difficult to discern the working element of restorative justice conferences: why do restorative justice  conferences outperform criminal justice procedures?

Emotional restoration finally is maybe the most important issue concerning victims in restorative justice. Using two central victim reactions to crime, anxiety and anger and drawing on psychological theory and practice concerning victims outside of the criminal justice system, the article develops a theoretical base for understanding victims emotional reactions within restorative justice.