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All of restorative justice practices have been proven in the worl. They can be adapted to the procedural context in which they occur and especially to those who participate.
The main measures of restorative justice are:
- The restorative mediation (victim-offender mediation). It allows the victim of an offence and the perpetrator of the offence to meet with a facilitator in a face to face, direct or indirect way. It offers the opportunity to discuss the consequences and the repercussions of the criminal conflict that opposes them.
- The restorative conference (family group conference). In addition to the face to face meeting between the victim and the offender, both parties are offered the opportunity to bring in relatives or people they trust. It permits to consider the terms of the support that the family and social environment can bring to the people concerned.
- The sentencing circle. It can be considered when the community to which offenders and victims belong, is particularly affected by the crime. Implemented within First Nations of North America more particularly, this circle seems difficult to adapt to our criminal justice system. In addition to the participation of the victims, offenders, relatives and possibly people they trust, it invites members of their communities who feel concerned by the crime. Arranged in a circle, they respectively exchange views on its consequences and repercussions on the direct protagonists of the crime and their relatives as well as on the community as a whole. The judge present within the circle can validate the agreements reached by consensus with a ruling which acquires the authority of res judicata.
- The restorative circle. This original circle seems particularly fitting when public action cannot be envisaged (statute of limitations, insufficiently established facts, nonsuit, discharge or acquittal). The aim is provide a forum to those who, confronted with such situations however legitimate they may be, try to understand the “why” and “how”, questions likely to disrupt their personal and social life as long as they remain pending.
- The victims/offenders encounters (Rencontres détenus-victimes – RDV in French). They offer the opportunity for a group of condemned and imprisoned people and a group of victims of offences (two to five people respectively) who are not involved in the same case, to meet. During a Session consisting of 5 o 6 meetings, the participants deal with the repercussions following the offence on their respective lives.
- These meetings can also be arranged outside the prison, between a group of convicts on probation and a group of victims. In this case it is a convicts/victims encounters (Rencontres condamnés-victimes – RCV in French)
- The circle of support and accountabily (COSA). It is meant for people sentenced to custody who upon release find themselves socially isolated whereas the risk of reoffending remains really high. They benefit from an attentive and unflagging support from specially trained volunteers coming from the community, who constitute the “circle of support”. It enables the convict to find an efficient help from the members of the community where he is to be reintegrated. A “resource circle” made up of volunteer professionals is available in case of difficulties encountered by the first circle during the accompaniment of the accompanied person.
A restorative justice process which is dynamic by definition generally consists of four specific stages.
- Determining the eligibility of the case for a restorative justice measure;
- Preparing the people who will be the major actors in the planned measure. This phase is the most decisive for the smooth development of the whole process. During this phase the facilitator(s) meet(s) the parties directly concerned (the victims or perpetrators of the offence and, depending on the measure, their relatives) separately (and then in groups according to the measure). This preparation permits them to anticipate the meeting and to consider by themselves their ability to participate. It is of paramount importance at this stage that the people should make up their own minds about their voluntary participation in the meeting;
- The meeting can then take place between the victims or perpetrators of the offence (or in a wider group as the case may be), in such a way that their physical and psychological safety is guaranteed. This meeting permits to initiate a dialogue during which the participants can freely exchange views in order to voice their feelings about the offence and its repercussions, to get answers to the questions they may have, directly from the opposite party (the actual perpetrator or “substitute”; victims and/or relatives). The participants can also decide on the actions they will take to repair the consequences and repercussions of the criminal act with respect to the type of measure and the moment when it is implemented during the criminal justice process.
- The restorative meeting culminates in a conclusion phase. Depending on the measure this phase leads to signing a restorative agreement (after consultation with their respective consultants if need be) which, after the sanction of the judicial authority, is implemented by all the people who have committed themselves to it (supporting the victim and the perpetrator of the offence mainly). All along the implementation of the restorative agreement they are accompanied by the facilitator(s) of the meeting. This rationally organized follow-up constitutes in itself a fifth phase.