Chapter 21, Section 5

Restorative Justice

Abstract: Restorative justice represents a paradigm shift in the way justice is dispensed in America's criminal and juvenile justice systems. The framework for restorative justice involves the offender, the victim, and the entire community in efforts to create a balanced approach that is offender directed and, at the same time, victim-centered.

Learning Objectives: Upon completion of this chapter, students will understand the following concepts:

  1. The three components of the restorative justice framework.
  2. The victim's role in restorative justice as it translates to practical programs and services.
  3. The assumptions of restorative justice and their implications for victims.


Traditionally, America's systems of criminal and juvenile justice have focused on crimes committed against the state, on retribution, and on punishment of the offender. In the United States, victims' involvement in the criminal justice system has emanated from their roles primarily as witnesses, rather than as active, welcome participants. While this has changed with the advent of increasing victims' rights and programs, the justice system still tends to be more "offender directed," rather than "victim centered."

This traditional approach has been challenged by the new paradigm of a more balanced vision. Restorative justice, the guiding philosophical framework for this vision, promotes maximum involvement of the victim, the offender, and the community in the justice process, and presents a clear alternative to sanctions and intervention based on retributive or traditional treatment assumptions (Bazemore & Umbreit, 1994, p. 1).

The framework of restorative justice has been primarily focused on juvenile justice. However, its positive implications for the criminal justice system as well cannot be overlooked.

The framework of restorative justice can be best described as a combined emphasis on three programming priorities:

Accountability: Restitution, community service, and victim/offender mediation create an awareness in offenders of the harmful consequences of their actions for victims, require offenders to take action to make amends to victims and the community and, whenever possible, involve victims directly in the justice process.

Community Protection: Intermediate, community-based surveillance and sanctioning systems channel the offender's time and energy into productive activities. A continuum of surveillance and sanctions provides a progression of consequences for noncompliance with supervision requirements and incentives that reinforce the offender's progress in meeting competency development and accountability objectives.

Competency Development: Work experience, active learning, and service provide opportunities for offenders to develop skills, interact positively with conventional adults, earn money, and demonstrate publicly that they are capable of productive, competent behavior (Bazemore & Umbreit, 1994, p. 3).

New roles in the balanced approach promulgated by restorative justice are included in the following chart: (Bazemore & Umbreit, 1994, p. 4)

Accountability - When a crime occurs, a debt incurs. Justice requires that every effort be made by offenders to restore losses suffered by victims.
Juvenile justice system role: Direct juvenile justice resources to ensure that offenders repay victims and complete other relevant restorative requirements as a top system priority.

Intended Outcome: Efficient, fair, and meaningful restorative justice practices; increased responsiveness to victims' needs.

Offender role: Actively work to restore victims' losses and participate in activities that increase empathy with the victim and victims generally.

Intended Outcome: Understanding of consequences of offense behavior; increased empathy; feeling of fairness in justice process.

Community role: Assist in the process by providing paid work opportunities for offenders, helping to develop community service work projects, and supporting victim awareness education.

Intended Outcome: More participation in and support for the juvenile justice system; message that victims receive priority.

Competency Development - Offenders should leave the juvenile justice system more capable of productive participation in conventional society than when they entered.
Juvenile justice system role: Access youths' strengths and interests and identify community resources to build on those strengths in a way that demonstrates competency. Engage youth in these activities and provide necessary supports for successful completion. Build prevention capacity through productivity partnerships with employers, educators, and other community agencies.

Intended Outcome: More opportunities for youth competency development; improved image of juvenile justice; increased competency.

Offender role: Become actively involved in activities that make a positive contribution to the community while building life skills; make continuous progress in improving educational skills while using existing skills to help others.

Intended Outcome: Increased sense of competency and self-esteem; exposure to and interaction with positive adult role models; improved public image of youth.

Community role: Become partner with juvenile justice system in developing opportunities for youth to make productive contributions to the community while learning positive civic and other values.

Intended Outcome: Increased community involvement in and ownership of delinquency problem; completion of positive work in communities; improved quality of life in community.

Community Protection - The public has a right to a safe and secure community; juvenile justice should develop a progressive response system to ensure offender control in the community and develop new ways to ensure public safety and respond to community concerns.
Juvenile justice system role: Ensure that offenders are carefully supervised by staff and a range of community guardians and that offenders' time is structured in productive activities; develop a range of supervision restrictiveness options and alternative responses to violations and incentives for progress.

Intended Outcome: Increased public support for community supervision.

Offender role: Become involved in competency building and restorative activities; avoid situations that may lead to further offenses.

Intended Outcome: No offenses while on supervision; reduced recidivism when the period of supervision is over.

Community role: Provide input to juvenile justice system regarding public safety concerns; share responsibility for offender control and reintegration.

Intended Outcome: Increased feelings of safety in community; increased confidence in juvenile community supervision.

The Victim's Role in Restorative Justice

While restorative justice offers a framework of a balanced approach, its practical application to victims must be defined in actions that equate to rights and services. These include, but are not limited to:

Fair treatment of victims, which must be sensitive, inclusive and respectful of their rights and needs. It must be recognized that the restorative justice model does not apply to all victims, some of whom demand punishment as a driving force in their personal reconstruction following a crime.

Victim participation in restorative justice must be totally voluntary, particularly in attempts to implement victim/offender mediation or conciliation programs. Any attempts to coerce victims into participating in such programs work against the basic principles of restorative justice that focus on restoring the victim, as well as the offender and community.

Victim notification of all key aspects of the criminal and juvenile justice systems -- including arrest, bail or bond, preliminary and court hearings, disposition, convicted offenders' status following sentencing, and potential release from incarceration -- is an integral "victim-centered" component of restorative justice.

Victim impact statements -- accepted by the criminal and juvenile justice systems in written, audio, video, and allocution forms, as well as in forms that are commensurate with the age and cognitive development of child victims -- provide victims with the opportunity to tell the court(s) and offender(s) about how the crime affected them and their loved ones.

Victim impact panels -- in which crime victims address an audience of offenders regarding how specific criminal actions affect victims emotionally, physically and financially -- serve two purposes: First, they provide offenders with an in-depth understanding of the pain and suffering they cause -- both short-term and long-term -- as a result of their criminal actions, and; second, they provide victims with the opportunity to possibly deter future criminal behavior and enhance public safety by making convicted offenders examine their behaviors and the devastating effects they wreak on innocent victims of crime.

"Impact of Crime on Victims" programs, pioneered by the California Youth Authority and replicated since then in 16 states, offer a 40-hour educational curriculum to adult and juvenile offenders in jail, prison, diversion, probation and parole settings. In a structured environment, students learn about the impact of crime on victims, on the offenders' families, on their communities, and on themselves. Crime victims and advocates serve as guest speakers, offering poignant stories that personalize crime and its traumatic effects on individuals.

Restitution is a key component of restorative justice. Victims often endure substantial financial losses resulting from crime. Far too often, offenders believe that "insurance will cover it" or, even worse, fail to consider the financial consequences to victims at all. Direct restitution payments to victims that are not only ordered, but monitored, and many times collected and disbursed, remind the offender of his or her direct accountability to an individual to whom they have caused loss and harm. For victims, restitution payments send a message that the criminal or juvenile justice system is willing to demand and enforce accountability.

Fines that support law enforcement, victim compensation, and criminal justice services serve to promote the basic concept of public safety, as well as offender accountability to make reparations for his or her crimes, are critical.

Community service provides convicted offenders with the opportunity to make amends with the larger entities affected by their crimes: Their neighborhood, their community, and society as a whole. Community service should be meaningful to the offender, as well as helpful to the community. For example, an attorney convicted of a white-collar crime can provide 500 hours of free legal services to battered women. Juveniles convicted of graffiti "tagging" can support neighborhood renewal efforts for elderly persons whose homes require minor repairs. It is also helpful if crime victims have input into the terms and conditions of community service sanctions, providing them with a level of involvement and input that is, in most jurisdictions, unprecedented.

New Roles in the Balanced Approach to

Restorative Justice

The traditional and accepted roles of all parties in the criminal and juvenile justice systems are challenged by the framework of restorative justice. The following values and assumptions should be considered by victim service providers in developing roles and responsibilities that are relevant to restorative justice:

The new roles in the balanced approach to restorative justice, as articulated by Dr. Gordon Bazemore, are included in the second column, and the implications of these roles on victims are summarized in the third column of the following chart:

Retributive and Restorative Justice Assumptions and

Implications for Victims of Crime

The criminal justice system controls crime. Crime control lies primarily in the community. The community - including victims and their allies - participates in and directly benefits form deterrence.
Offender accountability defined as taking punishment. Accountability defined as assuming responsibility and taking action to repair harm. Offenders are held directly accountable to victims.
Crime is an individual act with individual responsibility. Crime has both individual and social dimensions of responsibility. Prevention, intervention and breaking the cycle of violence are important considerations.
Crime is an act against the state, a violation of the law, an abstract idea. Crime is an act against another person or the community. The victim is individualized as central to the crime and the criminal justice system process, with the community duly noted as also affected by crimes.
Punishment is effective:

a. Threat of punishment deters crime.

b. Punishment changes behavior.

Punishment alone is not effective in changing behavior and is disruptive to community harmony and good relationships. Punishment is augmented by direct accountability to the victim and to the community, with victims having a strong, consistent voice.
Victims are peripheral to the process. Victims are central to the process of resolving a crime. Restorative justice principles are "victim-centered."
The offender is defined by deficits. The offender is defined by his or her capacity to make reparation. Reparations to the victim and to the community are a priority.
Focus on establishing blame, on guilt, on past (did he/she do it?) Focus is on problem solving, on liabilities/obligations, and on the future (what should be done?) A central goal is to deter future criminal action through conflict resolution, problem solving, and fulfilling obligations to the victim and to the community.
Emphasis on adversarial relationship. Emphasis is on dialogue and negotiation. Victims are active participants in determining appropriate reparations.
Imposition of pain to punish and deter/prevent. Restitution is a means of restoring both parties; goal of conciliation/restoration. Restitution holds the offender accountable and is meaningful to both him/her and the victim.
Community is on the sideline, represented abstractly be the state. Community as facilitator in restorative process. Just as the community is negatively affected by crime, it is positively affected by restorative justice process.
Response is focused on the offender's past behavior. Response focused on harmful consequences of the offender's behavior; emphasis on the future. Crime deterrence in the future focuses on victim and public safety.
Dependence on proxy professionals. Direct involvement by participants. Victims and their allies are directly involved in the criminal and juvenile justice and restorative justice processes.

Self Examination Chapter 21, Section 5

Restorative Justice

1) What are the three components included in the framework of restorative justice?

2) Identify three victims' rights and services that equate to the practical application of restorative justice.

3) What are three assumptions of retributive justice, as well as three parallel assumptions of restorative justice?

4) Briefly describe the components of your proposed, ideal restorative justice crime victim assistance system.


Bazemore, G., & Umbreit, M. (1994). Balanced and restorative justice program summary. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention.

McLagan, J. (1992). Report of the ad hoc committee on restorative justice to the Minnesota department of corrections. Minneapolis, MN.

To Chapter 21-Section 6

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