News & Current Affairs
Would You Want to Meet the Man Who Robbed You?
Being the victim of an offence can have many consequences both physical and psychological. It could easily be presumed for a victim to meet their offender would be a scary and negative experience. The ACT’s restorative justice program seeks to change this perception by facilitating meetings between victims and offenders for their mutual benefit.
Restorative justice is a system of criminal justice which focuses on the rehabilitation offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large.
Since February 2016 over 130 adult offenders in Canberra have participated in the restorative justice program reports the Canberra Times. Approximately two thirds of these cases involved a face-to-face meeting and 15 of these took place within prison.
Amanda Lutz, the restorative justice program manager, says significant time and effort is taken to ensure the victim and offender are prepared for the meeting. She stated ‘We do expect that people will be coming with a level of emotion. They might be bringing some anger depending on the severity of the offence.’
Lutz claims the results have been impressive. ‘Sometimes a victim has got an image in their mind of an offender as much bigger and scarier than they are in reality, so coming to a conference allows them to reframe the experience.’
Lutz says the program has been a learning experience too. She says they have learned never to assume what a victim wants as it is their experience.
Canberra woman, Lisa Martin, participated in the restorative justice program earlier this year. Whilst working at a hardware store she was robbed by Anthony Catania in attempt to support his ice habit.
Mr Catania was sentenced to a term of imprisonment for two years and four months for a series of crimes, including stealing from Ms Martin.
Before meeting Ms Martin, Mr Catania expressed he was apprehensive. He believed she would be very angry and it would be an abusive session.
However, Ms Martin stated the opportunity to meet Mr Catania allowed her not to think of him as a ‘bad guy.’ She stated ‘We’ve all messed up. We all want to be forgiven.’ Mr Catania expressed he was extremely grateful for her compassion.
In light of the success of the restorative justice program so far, the ACT Government is preparing to extend the program to include more serious crimes such as family violence and sexual offences.