Restorative justice programs
- Restorative justice is an approach to criminal justice in which the emphasis is placed on healing the damage inflicted on victims and the community rather than on punishing the offender
- Offender acknowledges responsibility and attempts to repair damage through practices such as such as victim-offender mediation, peacemaking circles, and family group conferences
- Attempts to address some violent crimes (e.g., minor assault),“victimless” crimes (e.g., traffic violations or status offenses), and property-related offenses (e.g., personal theft, shoplifting, and vandalism)
Strength of evidence
Evidence level: Strong (second-highest tier)
Strong (second-highest tier)
Ranked as having the second-highest level of evidence by the National Institute of Justice
Outcomes and impact
- Reduced recidivism rates
- Increased offender and victim perception of fairness and satisfaction with the judicial process
- Increased rates of completion of restitution and reparations
Keys to successful implementation
- Develop a dynamic program that allows for a range of proven approaches, including victim-offender mediation, family group conferences, and peacemaking circles; in each case, the offender focuses on taking responsibility and repairing damage, but staff members can leverage that flexibility to maximize program effectiveness.
- In all program communications, emphasize the importance of restoration and repairing damage and harm, rather than on punishment or retribution; actively work against the notion of “an eye-for-an-eye” justice.
- Identify and evaluate a range of potential partners, including third-party program administrators, community groups, schools, and more.
- To recruit offenders and victims who may benefit from alternatives to traditional criminal justice methods, engage with community agencies, victim advocacy groups, schools, law enforcement, and local courts.
- Prioritize creation of a rigorous, in-person screening process to ensure participants are appropriate for the program, especially the offender’s willingness to engage in repairing harm and participating in face-to-face dialogue with a victim.
- Provide significant flexibility in terms of victim participation, including direct and indirect contact with the offender and changing course as needed.