Karagiannidis Abolitionism and the Victim

The trial in a criminal court is fundamentally non-communicative; what we observe are just parallel monologues between the judge-lawyers and the offender; the victim is absent. Criminal justice system ignores the victim. It is the party that stands behind the veil during the procedure in a criminal court. As Nils Christie has already concluded, «victims of crime have lost their rights to participate in conflicts» (1977: 1). The State speaks for the victim. However, «one of the reciprocal changes abolitionism presents is the way in which problems are defined». That is to say that «no omnipresent organisation will tell us what is right and what is wrong, but the disputants determine that for themselves» (Swaaningen, 1986: 17). In the respect, penal abolitionism «snapshots» the omni-absent victim and calls for the necessity of its participation.

«Above all she/he has lost participation in her/his own case. It is the Crown that comes into the spotlight, not the victim. It is the Crown that describes the losses, not the victim. It is the Crown that appears in the newspaper, very seldom the victim. It is the Crown that gets a chance to talk to the offender, and neither the Crown nor the offender is particularly interested in carrying on that conservation. The prosecutor is fed-up long since. The victim would not have been. He might have been scared to death, panic-stricken, or furious. But he would have been uninvolved. It would have been one of the important days in his life. Something that belonged to him has been taken away from that victim» (Christie, 1977: 8).

On the other side, penal abolitionism does care about the real needs of the victims as it adopts a radical approach of defusing his/her feeling about being victimised. The policy suggested by penal abolitionism is a policy that can address the needs for restoration of the victim's property and the need for emotional closure. It is not only the conflicts that has been taken away from the victim; criminal justice system and state invariably steal fines and do not let victims to receive the money and compensation (Christie, 1977). The symbolic language of penal law would never offer satisfaction to the victim.
The model of justice of penal abolitionism is restorative than retributive and «envisage decision making by some sort of neighbourhood tribunal, rather than by a judge or magistrate, and wish to see the parties speaking for themselves, rather than being spoken about by a meeting of experts» (Hudson, 1998). The restorative justice of penal abolitionists (Średress') will bring not an abstract truth through dichotomic penal procedures but rather «restoration or even creation of good relationships between the offender, the victim and the community ... so that the undesirable event is less likely to be repeated» (Hudson, 1998: 145). The restorative model of justice is based upon the following assumptions and principles:
1. There is not such a thing as «crime». What we have are just «troubles» or «problematic events» that violates relationships, and not abstract legislative constructions (laws).
2. The procedure that should be followed in order to bring about conflict resolution should not be focus in abstract, metaphysical and arbitrary notions as guilty, dangerousness etc., but must be focus on the real needs and responsibilities of the victim, the culprit and the community. Moreover, the process is not an adversarial one but it would be built by dialogue in order to bring the essential agreement.
3. In the abolitionist restorative model of justice, the culprit, the victim and the community has the central position in the process of conflict resolution. The state has a rather aiding position in the process. And in this very process, it is not the rules but the assumption of responsibility that will play the key-role.
4. The result of such a procedure would not apply punishment but it should endeavour to make things right. Reconciliation, not punishment is the right reaction to problematic events. Therefore, there is no place for the dichotomic and manichaist logic of the penal law; there are no win or lose outcomes but healing on both sides (victim and culprit) while meeting the actual needs of community (safety).
5. The abolitionist restorative model of justice is focusing on the future, not on the past. The model points at the neutralisation of the social harms created by the problematic event, therefore it must show care of the physical and psychological needs of victims and reduce of the likelihood of offenders reoffending.

In this respect, abolitionism is obligated to work hard for the creation of reconciliation programs that will meet the real needs of the victims. Programs that will operate in a strictly voluntary way, but with the participation of both the victims and the culprits. Programs that would really satisfy the victim and would have «pedagogical possibilities» (Christie, 1977: 8). Moreover, penal abolitionists are obligated to spread with indomitable spirit their theoretical achievements in the social web and make these programs work with good results.
On the other hand, it seems that there is place to operate these reconciliatory programs. Community has the potential to deal in an informal way with its own conflicts without the participation of experts. The high rates of dark figure of criminality implies that most of the conflicts and problematic events have been dealt without criminal justice system's intervention but through «informal self-regulatory mechanisms of social control» (Swaaningen, 1995: 127).
As an example of how the abolitionist restorative justice model can be applied is the «Leeds Mediation and Reparation Service». It is a pioneering project that founded by the West Yorkshire Probation. Although it is rather in an experimental stage, the project makes contacts between victim and offender indirectly through letter or directly if both sides are willing through a face to face meeting. The program gives victims a chance to speak their minds and offenders a chance to try to put things right and to change. Moreover, it follows a more realistic approach to the «criminal phenomenon».
The «Leeds Mediation and Reparation Service» is a nice example of how mediation can bring understanding and reconciliation; «the stereotype of the taught offender and the weak victim does not always fit» they concluded («Confronting Crime» videotape).
Finally, in an abolitionist point of view, the demand of the penal system to secure and protect not only the rights of the victims but to secure more general and abstract values like for example «the common sense of justice» is totally arbitrary.
On the other hand, if the restorative model of justice adopted we would have not only victims» satisfaction but also a great reduction in the social cost of punishment (Baratta, 1989).


informativa privacy