Restorative justice programs
Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
- This strategy can help prevent violence. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
- 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.