1997-98 Academy Text Supplement
- The Mandatory Victims' Restitution Act (contained within the Antiterrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, P.L. 104-132) allows federal courts to award
"public harm" restitution, a form of community restitution, directly to state VOCA victim
assistance programs. These restitution payments are not limited to VOCA-allowable
costs, but can be used for a variety of purposes in an effort to help restore communities
that have been damaged by drug-related crimes.
Guiding Principles and Values of Restorative Justice
The transition from an adversarial justice process to one that is more restorative requires
significant change in both practice and principles. While there are many practical applications of
restorative justice, it is important that such practices be based upon a shared set of principles and
values. In a 1996 national teleconference on restorative justice sponsored by the National
Institute of Corrections, participants offered seven basic principles of restorative justice upon
which stakeholders can begin to evaluate existing efforts and create new approaches to justice
- Crime is an offense against human relationships.
- Victims and the community are central to justice processes.
- The first priority of justice processes is to assist victims.
- The second priority is to restore the community, to the degree possible.
- The offender has personal responsibility to victims and to the community for
- The offender will develop improved competency and understanding as a result of
the restorative justice experience.
- Stakeholders share responsibilities for restorative justice through partnerships for
Restorative Justice Asks These Questions
Kay Pranis, Restorative Justice Planner for the Minnesota Department of Corrections, offers nine
questions that should be answered in developing restorative justice partnerships and practices:
- How can we increase opportunities for victim involvement in defining harm and
- How can we increase offender awareness of injury to the victim?
- How can we encourage offender acknowledgment of wrongness of his/her
- How can we involve the offender in repairing the harm?
- How can we acknowledge victim harm, and confirm that the victim is not
responsible for what happened?
- How can the community send messages of disapproval while not banishing
- How can the community provide opportunities for the offender to repair the
- How can the community be involved in the process of holding offenders
- How can the community be supportive of victims, and help meet their needs?
Some Additional Considerations for Restorative Justice
As communities and institutions begin examining restorative justice as an alternative to traditional
justice approaches, there are some key considerations that should be addressed:
- Understanding victim trauma, and how participating in justice processes can
exacerbate such trauma, are essential to restorative justice initiatives.
Stakeholders must be aware of, and prepared to meet, victims' immediate, short-
and long-term needs. Knowledge of available supportive services at the local,
state and national levels is important. Ongoing training about victim trauma,
victims' needs, and available victim services is a key component of restorative
justice efforts. There must also be a shared recognition that every victim and
every case is unique, resulting in restorative justice approaches and solutions that
are specific to that individual.
- Crime victims and those who serve them must be involved as equal partners with
representatives of the community, offenders, and the justice system when
planning, implementing, and evaluating restorative justice approaches. Victims
and advocates are more likely to support restorative justice approaches when they
are involved in their development.
- Crime victims and those who serve them should be asked about their opinions of
and satisfaction with existing justice practices, in order to establish a "benchmark"
that precedes change. Jurisdictions have accomplished this through focus groups,
victim/witness satisfaction surveys, and market research directed toward victims
and service providers.
- Restorative justice requires outreach and education to victims and victim
advocates. Restorative justice proponents need to develop victim-specific
"marketing messages" that clarify how restorative justice initiatives benefit and
- Often, program evaluations measures change as systems move from traditional to
more restorative approaches. Instead of only examining measurements such as
recidivism and costs, new victim-specific program evaluation measures should be
considered, including but not limited to:
- Increases in victim satisfaction.
- Increases in restitution payments.
- More use of victim/offender programs.
- Increases in the submission of victim impact statements.
- Improved victim outreach.
- Establishment of system- or community-based Victim Advisory Councils
to guide policy and program development.
- Restorative justice requires changing roles for professionals and volunteers
involved in the justice system. As such, new job performance measures should be
developed that are victim-specific. For example, law enforcement should be
evaluated on the number of referrals that they provide to victims for supportive
services in the system and/or community. Probation officers should be evaluated
based upon the amount of restitution they collect, and the number of pre-sentence
investigations that include victim impact statements. When victim-specific
performance measures become part of professionals' expected job duties, they are
more likely to be fulfilled.
- Finally, restorative justice requires validation of the effect of crime on
neighborhoods and communities. Many offenses that are considered "victimless"
-- such as gang activity, drug sales, prostitution, and loitering -- detrimentally
affect the quality of life in neighborhoods, as well as in homes located near the
sites at which such crimes occur. Restorative justice approaches that validate the
community as hurt by crime include:
- Neighborhood or community impact statements that provide people with
the opportunity to tell the court how their lifestyles are affected by crimes
in their neighborhoods.
- Victim response teams that pair law enforcement with trained volunteer
victim advocates who provide supportive services and follow-on
information and referrals to all crime victims who report offenses to the
- Community service by offenders in neighborhoods hurt by crime that is
highly visible, and that meets needs for repair and restoration as defined
by the people who live there.
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