In the United States, it is common to refer to prison as a “revolving door” in which offenders enter, leave, re-offend, and then enter again. Conservative British MP Alan Duncan made a speech in February in which he discussed the same issue — except he colorfully compared prison to a “carousel.” Either way, it is clear from Duncan’s speech that the Americans and the British are dealing with very similar criminal justice problems. One of Duncan’s solutions is to embrace Restorative Justice.
The Restorative Justice concept encourages offenders to meet and be confronted by their victims. It makes intuitive sense that many victims would benefit from Restorative Justice, but Duncan is making the interesting and important observation that offenders can also benefit. He even cites research suggesting that Restorative Justice can reduce recidivsm by an average of 27%.
Duncan explains: “Properly monitored and prepared, [Restorative Justice] allows the offender to realise the direct and ripple effect of his crime and, in giving it a human context, brings the offender to a realisation that if he commits further crimes they will cause further human damage. The hardened ex-offender who for the first time looks his elderly victim in the eye and sees her distress often finds it a challenge to remain hardened for long.”
No matter what idiom one chooses — revolving door or carousel — it is clear that the same problem exists both here and in the United Kingdom. The same solution might exist too: a greater role for Restorative Justice.