A Simple Guide to Understanding Restorative Justice
REJA - A Simple Guide to Understanding Restorative Justice

A Simple Guide to Understanding Restorative Justice

By Stephanie Chikwauzor Emebo, Esq. (chikwaemebo@gmail.com)

Stephanie Chikwauzor Emebo, Esq.

From the beginning of time, man has always needed laws to govern his activities. For peace to reign and for these laws to be enforced, a justice system is needed. Not only a justice system but an efficient one that seeks to address the needs of people and one such system is ‘Restorative Justice’. Restorative justice (RJ) is a system of dispute resolution that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behaviour. Its major aim is to heal the victims’ wounds and restore offenders to law-abiding citizens while requiring offenders to take responsibility for their actions and for the harm they have caused. Restorative Justice isn’t alien to the African culture as it was practised in some indigenous African culture particularly within the ancient Nigerian justice system and it differs a good deal from the retributive justice system that is currently practised in African countries and most of the world.


It would be unrealistic to assume that one can go through life without experiencing criminal acts or knowing someone who has been a victim of crime. The sad truth is that most times, the criminal acts are being perpetrated by people we know and perhaps have personal relationships with. The retributive justice system is rooted in the notion that offenders should be punished for their actions. It advocates for incarceration as the best way of dealing with offenders with the belief that by separating them from society, citizens are being protected. Restorative Justice differs from retributive justice in the sense that it seeks to repair the harm caused by crime by bringing together the parties involved and addressing the healing of the victim. It involves the offender purging himself through apology and subsequent reintegration into the society as he/she is held accountable to the victim and the community. In a restorative process, the following outcomes may be achieved; Reconciliation, Restitution, Reintegration, and Restoration.

Restorative justice is having a positive impact on justice systems around the world, therefore presenting itself as a blueprint for justice in the 21st century. It draws upon many values from different cultures which may lead to a greater sense of belonging and may build a more accountable, understandable and healing system of justice. In a time where crime and violence reign supreme, an approach that tackles the cause of the crime may be most appreciated.

The concept of Restorative Justice did not just fall from a tree, rather it dates back to thousands of years ago as seen in The Code of Hammurabi which took a Victim Oriented approach by prescribing for the victim to be made as whole as possible through restoration and the victim was required to forgive vengeance against the offender[1]. The Pentateuch also specified restitution for property crimes, and in Rome, the twelve tables compelled offenders to pay double the value of stolen goods[2]. The notion of restitution can be traced back to the Bible as seen in the Book of Leviticus 6; 1-6 and Exodus 22 vs 3[3]. The theory of restoration takes a victim-oriented approach to crime that emphasizes restitution (compensation) for the victims rather than focus on punishment alone[4].

Before delving into the concept of restorative justice, it is imperative to consider what Crime and Justice are while checking if the current justice system meets the tenets of justice and adequately defines Crime.

1.0.1 What is Crime?

Crime is generally viewed as an offence against the state. There is no universally accepted definition of crime, but a cursory look at most given definitions of the term has streamlined ‘Crime’ to be primarily a violation of the law. One of such definitions is the one which defines crime as “an act or an omission which is prohibited by the written law or enactment of a State and the punishment of which is prescribed in the written law in force at the time of the commission or omission”[5].. Since Crime is viewed as an offence against the State, most criminal cases are often prosecuted as C.O.P. v Emeka in Magistrate Courts and State v Aina in High Courts as the state takes charge of the prosecution of the case, mostly with the sole aim of incarceration of the offender, all in a bid to achieve justice. Victims of crime sometimes feel alienated by the current system of justice as crime is considered against ‘The State’ and the State’s interest drives the process of getting justice. Victims are often left on the side-lines with little, if any input, and this may lead to Crime victims frequently feeling twice victimised first by the offenders and secondly by the criminal justice system[6]. For many crime victims, their encounter with the justice system leads to increasing frustration and anger because it is not victim-centred and rarely do criminal justice professionals take the time to listen to the fears and concerns of victims or seek their input. With the current state of the justice system in Nigeria, a new system where the parties have a say as much as judges, lawyers and law enforcement agencies would be deeply welcomed by all. Crime should not be considered an offence against the state alone but inclusive of the victim because considering crime as only a violation of written laws is a disrespect to the feelings and hurt of the victim who was personally affected. A criminal act is committed against an individual and shouldn’t be given an abstract meaning by viewing it as a wrong against an entity. Restorative Justice starts with viewing crime from a more humane standpoint as it considers Crime to be a wrong against an individual. Using the lens of restorative justice, crime is viewed as an offence against the victim who may have suffered a financial, psychological, mental, emotional or physical injury from the criminal act of the offender. Restorative Justice empowers the victim to have a say in the whole process as it aims for the healing of the victim.

1.0.2 What is Justice?

In defining Justice, reliance shall be placed in the meaning ascribed to it by the Court in Josiah v. The State[7] per Oputa JSC who stated as follows:

“Justice is not a one-way traffic. It is not justice for the appellant only. Justice is not even only a two-way traffic. It is really a 3-way traffic, justice for the appellant-accused of a heinous crime of murder; justice for the victim, the murdered man, the deceased, whose blood is crying to heaven for vengeance and finally justice for the society at large.”

From the definition above, one would wonder if justice is truly achieved in our retributive justice system. For justice to be truly done, the victim must feel it, as it does not connote incarceration or punishment alone, but emphasises on; victims’ satisfaction, healing, peace of mind, restitution, rehabilitation and reintegration where need be. Restorative justice recognises that all parties deserve justice, and it ensures that this is done by meeting up with all the requirements for justice as enumerated by Justice Oputa. The often-quoted aphorism by Lord Chief Justice Hewart “that not only must justice be done; it must also be seen to be done”[8] seems to only hold water with restorative justice because in a restorative process; justice is seen done and done to the fullest.

The chief motivation behind why many people go to court is to seek justice, and oftentimes the current system has not given them the satisfaction they desire. It leaves them wanting more and people would rather lean towards a system where they have a say in what goes on, where their opinions are valued and respected and where they believe that the decision reached would give them the justice they eagerly desire and need. This is because, in a restorative approach, the victim, the offender, and the community collectively decide on the best and most appropriate form of restitution which is achieved through a consensus of the mind.

1.01 Principles of Restorative Justice

The theory of restorative justice has basic principles guiding it, and some say that another way to explain restorative justice is to look at the core principles that govern it. The following are therefore few guiding principles of restorative justice:

  1. It views crime primarily as an offence against human relationships and secondarily a violation of the law.[9]
  2. Both victim and offender voluntarily participate in the restorative process: This emphasizes the fact that participation in a restorative justice process should be based on the victim and offender’s free and voluntary consent (absence of coercion).
  3. The offender must accept responsibility for the offence: For a restorative justice approach to be used, the acceptance of guilt by the offender is not only necessary but essential because without it, what wrong would be corrected? And how would the offender be integrated into society if he doesn’t consider his actions wrong?
  4. The offender’s admission cannot be used as evidence against the offender in any subsequent legal process
  5. Referrals to the restorative justice process can occur at all stages of the trial.
1.02 Common Misconceptions about Restorative Justice

There are various misconceptions about restorative justice which include but are not limited to:

  1. Restorative justice is easy/ soft on the offender: This is to date, one of the most common misconceptions of Restorative Justice which is in no way soft on the offender but rather seeks to hold the offender accountable to the victim. A restorative approach involves the offender facing the victim and the community who are affected by his actions. Offenders often report that facing their victims and others negatively affected by their actions is a difficult and intense experience because they must answer difficult questions and take full responsibility for their actions. Restorative justice has proven not to be easy on offenders but assists them through other means inclusive or short of incarceration to restitute and make amends. It has proven to be effective despite the misconceptions as it provides an 85 per cent victim satisfaction rate and a 14 per cent reduction in the rate of re-offending[10].
  2. It is more offender centred: Restorative justice considers all parties involved. It aims to meet the needs of victims as it considers the effects of the criminal act on the victim while it also assists the offender in identifying the root causes and contributing factors behind their criminal acts so they learn to act differently and avoid recidivism. It can, therefore, be safe to say that offender rehabilitation and crime prevention is an aspect of restorative justice. But the victim’s needs always take the centre stage as their wants, opinions, general and emotional wellbeing are also put into consideration. It can, therefore, be deduced that offender rehabilitation is a common element of a restorative process, but it doesn’t necessarily make it offender centred[11].
  3. It is not suitable for all cases and is only appropriate for minor offences: This is another common misconception born out of limited or improper knowledge of what restorative justice entails. Some persons inclusive of legal practitioners view restorative justice to be only effective on minor offences whereas this is not the correct position as Restorative Justice can be used for any crime, and in more developed countries, it has been successfully used in cases of assault, rape, and murder. For these more serious offences, the restorative justice process can be done in conjunction with the mainstream justice system after the offender has been found/plead guilty. It is important to iterate that Restorative Justice can be done at any stage of the proceeding and can even take effect after sentencing. It can be done before initiating a Court process, after sentencing, or even after the court case is over[12].
  4. It serves as a get out of jail card for the offender: Flowing from the above, it can be deduced that Restorative Justice is not a get out of jail free card and can even take place after incarceration. It can occur in conjunction with judicial sentencing and a custodial sentence. Let us consider the celebrated case of Harvey Weinstein, who was accused of sexual abuse and rape and was subsequently sentenced to 23 years in prison after a full-blown trial. While many applauded the prison sentence he received, restorative justice should also serve as an addition as conceived by one of his Victims, Ashley Judd, who indicated that she would love for Weinstein to have a restorative justice process in which he could come emotionally to terms with his wrongs as Weinstein from comments in court appeared not to have understood the impact his actions had on his victims’.[13] Restorative justice, in his case, would not serve as a get out of jail free card but an avenue for healing and rehabilitation.
  5. Restorative justice requires forgiveness and becoming friends with the offender: Although the place of forgiveness and reconciliation cannot be denied in a restorative process, it is not the primary goal of a restorative process. Restorative Justice is a voluntary process where victims move at their pace and can decide whether or not to forgive the offender or become friends with them, and no restorative process forces reconciliation and forgiveness on the parties.

Having highlighted some common misconceptions of Restorative Justice, I shall discuss the basic universal restorative programs which are often used to achieve a successful restorative process.

1.03 Restorative Justice Programs

Various countries involved in Restorative Justice all have different programs they use and often the frequency of one is more prevalent because it may produce more results in the region or area it is being used. We shall discuss three (3) programs commonly used in a Restorative Process.

  1. Victim-Offender Mediation: This restorative program is by far one of the most commonly used and it involves the victim, the offender and trained Restorative Justice Practitioners who discuss the crime, its negative effect, and the process needed to make things right. It can even take an indirect approach by dispensing with face-to-face meetings but takes place through the exchange of letters between victim and offender. Victim Offender Mediation may be independent, relatively independent or dependent of the judicial process. It is independent when it is offered as an alternative to criminal litigation and it is relatively independent when it is offered as part of the regular criminal litigation, and the resolution reached may have an impact on the outcome of the case. It may also be dependent, and this is used after a criminal trial has taken place. In summary, Victim-Offender Mediation can appear as part of/ instead of/ on top of the formal criminal justice system.
  2. Conferencing: This Restorative program involves the Victim, the Offender, family members, and community members coming together to discuss the crime, its effect and the way forward. It is usually facilitated by an independent 3rd party who acts as a facilitator. Just like in every Restorative process, it must be Voluntary and the Offender must have admitted guilt for the offence.
  3. Circles: This process is similar to Conferencing, they only differ because of the involvement of more parties such as more family members, community members, government representatives, police officers and others who may be necessary for the process to discuss the underlying causes and impacts of the crime not only to the victim but to the community as a whole. This process is governed by a keeper of the circle who ensures the process is protected with the use of a talking piece and participants in the process only speak when the talking piece reaches their turn including the keeper of the circle. This is to ensure peace and reduction of rowdiness because of the number of persons involved.

The restorative justice process may occur during the trial, before trial or after trial. From the provisions of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019, there are four (4) stages at which the restorative justice approach may be used. They are:

  1. Pre Trial stage
  2. Trial stage
  3. During imprisonment; and
  4. at post-imprisonment.[14]

Although restorative justice has its obvious advantages, just like all other facets of life it also has disadvantages and it is not the writer’s wish to paint it as an all-perfect answer to crime reduction but rather to portray it in its true light. Some major disadvantages of restorative justice are:

  • Potential re-victimisation.
  • Inability to ascertain if an offender is truly rehabilitated.
  • Some offenders end up re-offending this is because Restorative Justice does not totally eradicate re-offending.
  • Reliance on the voluntary participation of parties and the admission of guilt by the Offender, in the absence of which there can be no Restorative Justice.
1.04 Instances of Restorative Justice in Nigeria using the Traditional Igbo Society.

The Igbo tribe is one of the major tribal groups in Nigeria. They occupy the eastern part of Nigeria like Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and some parts of Delta and Rivers state. Before western education, culture, and civilization were introduced in Nigeria, the Igbos had their way of making laws, governing themselves and settling their disputes. In those days, the Igbos practised restorative justice in their mode of settlement of disputes.

For instance, when a serious or violent crime is committed, such as murder or rape, the victim’s family is offered a form of reparation which may come in the form of ‘nkuchi’[15] or ‘ikwala’[16] or banishment of the murderer from the community. Most times, the banishment extends to the offender’s nuclear family. The latter example was evidenced in Chinua Achebe’s novel “Things Fall Apart” which chronicled the journey of a young man, Okonkwo, who was banished from the land for killing a young boy. As was the norm in many Igbo lands, it was a crime to kill a clansman and a man who committed it must flee from the land. For killing the sixteen-year-old son of Ezeudo, Okonkwo was forced to flee from the land for seven years[17]. This mode of justice was heavily prevalent in that era and it’s ironic they had no idea they were effortlessly practising a system of justice which we would in the 21st-century fight to bring back to the limelight in our urban civilised society. Restorative justice has not lost its light as it is still practised in Igbo lands. Till date, when a crime is committed in a village, in most cases, recourse is not made immediately to the police or formal authorities but to parents of the person who committed the crime or Umunna’s (kinsmen) who resolve the dispute among themselves or with the help of the Igwe (the traditional ruler) or the community. It is also evidenced in the mode of settlement of a dispute in Afikpo land, Ebonyi State and in most villages in the eastern part of Nigeria, where the participation of the victim, offender, and community in repairing harm done is still thriving[18].

The traditional Igbo society justice system is characterised by restitution, which is an important aspect of restorative justice. It goes to prove that restorative justice is not alien to the Nigerian justice system and Africa as a whole.

1.05 Importance of Restorative Justice in Nigeria’s Criminal Justice System

It is common knowledge that the Nigerian Correctional Centres do little or nothing to rehabilitate and reintegrate offenders into the society as most prisoners come out more hardened. Nigeria’s criminal justice system is retributive and characterised by punishment and sanction, but restorative justice is emerging as a formidable alternative to it.

Most inmates at Correctional Centres are awaiting trial, some of them having been there for about 10 years. Presidential pardons offered by the Federal Government have done little to resolve the problem. All over the world Correctional Centres are established to serve as rehabilitative and reformatory institutions with the goal of reorientation and reforming inmates so they would come out as useful members of the society. However, the Nigerian correctional centres have failed to attain this purpose but instead harden inmates by subjecting them to horrible and degrading conditions. Does the importance of Restorative Justice in our justice system still need to be further iterated?

Well, there’s still more to be pointed out.

Despite the shortcomings of the then Prison Service, it is laudable to applaud the tremendous feat of the government on the introduction of the new Correctional Service Act which not only changed the name from Prison to Correctional Centres but also made provision for the use of Restorative Justice in the country[19]. This is a huge stepping stone for Restorative Justice practitioners as the Correctional Service Act has now adopted a process of custodial and non-custodial approach giving room for restoration. However, the law should not only be made but seen done by a rapid implementation.

Restorative Justice shines a light on humanity by realising that offenders, especially first-time offenders and juvenile offenders are often victims of themselves or of attempts to impress friends and in situations like that, rather than creating room for recidivism and re-offending, it is important to shed light on their non-complexities as they need help to become better versions of themselves. When offenders go into the correctional facilities with little or no opportunity for rehabilitation and education, they come out worse than they were when they entered, thereby becoming more susceptible to committing worse crimes than their first. A funded UK Government research published by their Ministry of Justice has shown that there was a lesser rate of re-offending from offenders who took part in a restorative justice program as opposed to those who were subjects of incarceration[20]. Higher rates of victim satisfaction have also been recorded upon completion of restorative programs than through trials resulting in incarceration. [21]This is often because Restorative Justice involves; reconciliation, restitution, reintegration, and restoration.

Jacob Dunne’s story shed a light into the life of an ex-inmate who partook in a Restorative Justice process. The case of Jacob Dunne culled from “the forgiveness project” is a clear example of the impact of Restorative Justice on the lives of both offenders and victims. 28-year-old trainee paramedic, James Hodgkinson, was killed in 2011 from a single punch to his head. He had been out in Nottingham with his father, brother and three friends after watching a cricket match. His attacker, Jacob Dunne, pleaded guilty and served 13 months in prison for manslaughter. Later James’ mother, Joan Scourfield, met Jacob through Restorative Justice. Below are excerpts from Jacob’s story[22]:

My life changed forever the day I handed myself in at the police station where I was told I was being arrested on suspicion of murder. Sitting in that holding cell I felt shocked, scared, confused, and very angry. A month earlier I had been out celebrating a friend’s 18th birthday. It was July 2011 and I’d been drinking most of the day with a group of friends who over the years I’d come to respect and care more for than my own family.

In secondary school, I had lost the message of education. I quickly became the kid who was problematic, spending most of my days in a room by myself or skiving class. By the age of 15, I had been excluded from two schools and didn’t bother showing up to sit my GCSE’s. I developed beliefs and values that were only ever going to get me into trouble, especially a feeling that I always had to defend my friends if they got into trouble. This is how I became immersed in a ‘gang’ mind-set.

Towards the end of that July night, I was drinking alone in a bar when I received a call from one of my friends saying that there was trouble kicking off in town. When I got down there I saw a friend of mine squaring off with another man. That’s when I threw a punch that changed everything. I ran from the scene unaware that the man I had hit would later tragically pass away. This man I now know was called James.

I put the incident out of my mind until one morning a month later the police started questioning and then arresting my friends. When they finally came for me I was the only one to be charged and to receive a custodial sentence. In prison, I was consumed by anger and began to blame my friends for stitching me up. My overwhelming feeling was one of self-pity as if I was the only victim of these tragic circumstances.

There was no space in custody for me to reflect on what I’d done. No one was there to challenge me, and I was surrounded by other inmates who shared the same common criminal values I did. By the time I was released I had become an even worse person than when I went in, with no hope for my future. Two months later, however, my probation officer contacted me to ask if I had ever heard of restorative justice. She told me that David and Joan, the parents of James, wanted to ask me some questions about that night. It was at this moment that I realized there were people involved in this crime who had been more harmed than me. After some reflection, I decided that the very least I could do was help them make sense of what had happened.

We began to communicate through mediators from the restorative justice charity Remedi, and after several months of letters and hearing in detail what they and their family had gone through, I became so overwhelmed with guilt and shame that I decided I had to move forward in a more positive way. What amazed me was how much David and Joan supported me in trying to make better choices, and as a result, I began to update them on my progress through mediators and letters. During this time, I was encouraged to go back into education and over the next two and a half years I succeeded far beyond what I believed I was capable of. Then finally, after I’d gained access into University to study Criminology, we all felt comfortable enough to meet each other face-to-face.

Opening the door into the room where both David and Joan were waiting was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, but I knew how important it was that I looked them in the eye and told them how sorry I was. The meeting lasted an hour and a half. To hear them talk about their love for James and about the type of person he has affected me deeply, and reinforced my determination to make something of myself and to do everything I could to prevent others going through the kind of trauma they’d gone through.

Although I expressed how sorry I was to them, I also had a need to thank them for initiating our correspondence and for having the courage to meet me. If they had never challenged me with those difficult questions I would most likely still be in prison today. It’s incredible to me that those who I hurt the most have judged me the least.

From this, we see restorative justice from the eye of the Offender, now we shall view it from the Victim’s eye, from the same Jacob Dunne’s story. Below are excerpts from the Victim’s story[23]:

As soon as I got the call I rushed to Nottingham to be by James’s side. He didn’t look injured. He just had one small bruise on his chin. But there was a bleed to his brain and when surgery didn’t work he was put on life support. When he couldn’t breathe for himself there was no way forward and after nine days I asked for the machine to be turned off.

The moment I walked out of intensive care to tell the others that James had passed away the homicide team were waiting for me. From then on instead of being able to grieve and bury James our focus had to be on the investigation. I longed for my own space, and to be with my family but post-mortems followed which meant we couldn’t have the funeral for another 11 weeks. It was a kind of torture. I had been divorced from James’s father, David, for five years now but we were very united throughout this time.

19-year-old Jacob Dunne was arrested soon after. It helped me tremendously that he pleaded guilty because it meant we wouldn’t have to face a long drawn out trial. Jacob was sentenced to four years for manslaughter but in the end because of his age and because he had pleaded guilty he only served 13 months. I felt incredibly angry and bitter about this. How could James’s life be worth only 13 months! This was no deterrent to stop others. The short sentence just compounded the pain.

Victim Support visited me and David regularly throughout that time. They too were totally bemused as to how Jacob could have received such a short sentence. Then one day a volunteer told us about restorative justice and suggested it might be a way of relieving some of the bitterness we felt. I’d never heard of restorative justice but they explained that if Jacob agreed we could make contact with him through a third party to get some of our questions answered. A group called Remedi was able to establish that Jacob was willing to take part. I wanted to know whether he had achieved anything from going to prison.

We soon learnt that prison had done nothing for him. He hadn’t been offered any courses and he’d been released with nowhere to live, which was crazy! The mediation went on for quite some time with volunteers from Remedi coming to speak to us and then speaking to Jacob. We also learnt that in prison, because his friends [who had been present at the scene of the crime] hadn’t stood by him, Jacob felt like the victim himself which really shocked us. At the same time, Jacob couldn’t understand why we cared about his life and why we wanted to see him find a way forward. And with that, he did start to change. He got a job packing in a warehouse and he started studying for GCSEs. He passed his exams and after doing access to university course a year later we felt ready to meet him.

The meeting took place in Suffolk. It was very hard. You don’t know what you’re going to say or how you’re going to react. We arrived at the building and were taken into a room while Jacob was in a different room. I think it must have been the hardest thing for him to walk through that door and see us. I remembered him from the police mug shot, but he looked so different in real life. He was a young man, not a monster. We were introduced by the facilitator and began to talk about what had happened on the night and why he had hit James. When I told him what James was like as a person, I saw Jacob’s eyes fill up. We all shed a few tears. I could see he was deeply remorseful and that gave me hope he could change. We agreed to build a future together by talking publicly about restorative justice and raising awareness of the catastrophic effects of a single punch.

I left the room that day feeling a little bit lighter, hopeful that Jacob would turn his life around. I don’t feel bitter anymore about the short sentence. I don’t say it’s right but I think we’ve done more for Jacob on the outside than the prison ever did on the inside. We helped to give him a different outlook. People say they could never meet the person who killed their child but I didn’t set out to do any of this. What I set out to do was to get the questions that were keeping me awake at night answered. It’s taken a long time to feel comfortable with the word forgiveness. I used to feel that if I forgive Jacob it meant I’d forgotten James but now that Jacob has done so well, forgiving him feels really natural. Forgiveness for me means being at peace, letting go of the bitterness and letting Jacob into my life. I’ve grown fond of him.

The reason for extracting this story word for word is to shed light on the lives of the parties, in order to grasp how they felt before and after the process. The retributive justice system only incarcerated Jacob and made him more susceptible to the commission of a greater crime after his release. We can tell from Jacob’s story how lost he felt and how he may have gone deeper into a darker path by the commission of a more heinous crime if not for the timely intervention of Restorative Justice which transformed him as a person. Jacob’s story is one of the many stories where our justice system has failed. Need I mention that minor offences such as petty stealing, minor assaults, property damages and a host of others which could have been diverted to restorative programs to enable a safer and sane environment have been handled by our justice system in a less restorative manner? We can see in this case how Restorative Justice promoted healing for both Victim and Offender and aided in the reintegration of Jacob into society. Here, Restorative Justice took place at the post-imprisonment stage, however, it could have also taken place at the pre-trial or trial stage as it brings together parties who are at polar ends, to see how justice can be achieved. Voluntariness is essential and there is no compulsion on anybody to forgive or become friends, all restorative acts are borne from the free will of the parties.

Restorative Justice through the proper form of restitution promotes and sustains peace. Its reduction of crime is a plus to its prospects as crime can never be completely stopped but through restitution, appropriate reparation, acceptance of guilt, repentance and remorse crime may be reduced which would result in peace and healthy relationships among members of a community as evidenced in Jacob’s case.

There have been various accounts of victims who after hearing or meeting the offenders attest to feeling relieved and peaceful. Another story is that of Jerry Elster. At 20 years old, Jerry Elster was a gang member in Los Angeles. “It was not difficult for me, at that age, to wrap myself in a cloak of resentment and bitterness,” said Elster who became attracted to gang life and ended up killing a rival gang member. Elster sees his mistakes now because of the Restorative Justice program offered during his time at the correctional facility[24].

Elster’s powerful story along with many other stories have shown that Restorative Justice is becoming a more accepted option to the current criminal justice system.

Restorative justice has helped people like Jerry Elster believe in second chances and has offered them an opportunity of being accepted back into society. Now, Elster is a healing justice coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). The importance of Restorative Justice to our criminal justice system is further illustrated in the way it deals with offenders, victims, and communities in the aftermath of a crime as it gives room for forgiveness and a consensus on the proper form of reparation acceptable to all. It is therefore important because it adopts a correctional and rehabilitative means of resolving the dispute.

Restorative justice has recorded a high level of success in developed countries as its implementation is extended to schools, workplaces, religious organisations, and juvenile offenders. The Restorative Justice Committee of the California Catholic Conference had issued the following statement[25]:

The harm to persons by the intentional criminal acts of others can be long-lasting. Crime victims, survivors, and their families need to know they are not alone. Local Church communities will walk with them providing support and prayers on the road to healing and restoration. Healing is a process aimed at restoring a sense of physical safety, security, and sense of self. That process is called restorative justice. It has two goals—to help victims and their families heal from the traumatic effects of violent crime and to break the cycle of crime by increasing public safety through helping offenders rehabilitate as well as reintegrate into their communities. Many California dioceses have an Office of Restorative Justice formed to provide healing and support to all of those affected by crime and the criminal justice system’s response

1.06 Conclusion and Recommendations

Father Jim Consedine[26] in the Foreword to the New Zealand Restorative Justice Practice Manual wrote:

Restorative justice is a positive way of dealing with crime. It can lead to the transformation of people’s lives. The question is – do we have the courage, the vision, and the political will to implement it? The answer rests with us all[27]

Restorative justice may have a lot of growing to do in Nigeria especially outside the justice system (that is schools, religious organisations, workplaces) but it prides itself as an effective justice-making mechanism and although it is not without its disadvantages, the advantages far outweigh its disadvantages.

It is therefore recommended that the Nigerian justice system adopt restorative justice as a complement and not an alternative to the retributive system already practised. For a good justice system to be in place, both justice systems should be practised and used where appropriate.

Written By Stephanie Chikwauzor Emebo, Esq., chikwaemebo@gmail.com

[1] ncjrs.govs ‘Code of Hammurabi’ https://www.ncjrs.gov/ovc_archives/nvaa/ch04hslaw.htmhttps://www.ncjrs.gov/ovc_archives/nvaa/ch04hslaw.htm Accessed on 20/03/2020

[2] Constitution Society ‘ The Law of the Twelve Tables’ https://www.constitution.org/sps/sps01_1.htm Accessed on 20/03/2020

[3] The Holy Bible- Revised Standard Version

[4] J Agaba, Practical Approach To Criminal Litigation In Nigeria(Pre-Trial And Proceedings)  (1st in. Nigeria: Lawlords publication, 2011)p.69

[5] T. Nnabugwu ‘What is Crime’ http://titusnnabugwu.blogspot.com/2012/07/what-is-crime-by-titus-ik_26.html Accessed on 26/03/2020

[6] What is Restorative Justice?  https://law.jrank.org/pages/1954/Restorative-Justice.html Accessed on 23/03/2020

[7] Josiah v.  The State (1985) 1 NWLR (Part II) Page 125 at 141

[8] R v Sussex Justices, Ex parte McCarthy (1924) 1KB 256, (1923) AII ER Rep 233)

[9] R. Classen, ‘Restorative Justice Principles’ (1996)  Discipline that Restores <http://www.restorativejusticediscipline.com/library/rjprinc2.html> Accessed on 25/03/2020

[10] Evidence supporting the use of restorative justice https://restorativejustice.org.uk/resources/evidence-supporting-use-restorative-justice Accessed on 23/03/2020

[11] RestorativeJusticeVictoria ‘Myths and Misconceptions About Restorative Justice’ <http://www.rjvictoria.com/myths-and-misconceptions-about-rj/> accessed on 25/03/2020

[12] ibid

[13] Weinstein Verdict: Restorative Justice Is Needed to Empower Victims

https://www.davisvanguard.org/2020/03/guest-commentary-weinstein-verdict-restorative-justice-is-needed-to-empower-victims/ Accessed on 23/03/2020

[14] See section 43 (3) (a) – (d) of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019

[15] Nkuchi- Replacement

[16] Ikwala – Shaming

[17] C Achebe, Things Fall Apart (1st in. New Hampshire: Heinemann Ltd. 1958) p. 87

[18] O Elechi, ‘Doing Justice without the State: The Afikpo (Ehugbo) Nigeria Model’ (2006)Restorativejustice.org<https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01924036.1996.9678580 >

[19]  See Section 37 (1) (a) – (e) , 43 (1) & (2) of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019

[20]Evidence supporting the use of restorative justice https://restorativejustice.org.uk/resources/evidence-supporting-use-restorative-justice Accessed on 23/03/2020

[21] Ibid

[22] Jacob Dunne’theforgivenessproject.com’  https://www.theforgivenessproject.com/jacob-dunne Accessed on 24/03/2020

[23] Joan Scourfield ‘theforgivenessproject.com’ https://www.theforgivenessproject.com/joan-scourfield Accessed on 24/03/2020

[24] Jerry Elster: Transformational Change From San Quentin to Seattle https://southseattleemerald.com/2016/02/18/jerry-elster-transformational-change-from-san-quentin-to-seattle/

Accessed on 24/03/2020

[25]  Catholic Bishops of California Ask for Prayers in Observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 2-8, 2017   https://www.rcbo.org/catholic-bishops-of-california-ask-for-prayers-in-observance-of-national-crime-victims-rights-week-april-2-8-2017/  accessed on 24/03/2020

[26] He was one of the advocates of restorative justice in New Zealand. He opined that a parallel shift was needed in the justice system and it involved restorative justice. He also wrote a book on restorative justice which is cited as J Cosedine Restorative Justice – HealingThe Effects Of Crime (New Zealand: Ploughshares Publications, 1994)

[27] Bowen, Boyack, and Hooper New Zealand Restorative Justice Practice Manual (2000)

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