Restorative Justice

Janet Lauritsen

in Criminology

ISBN: 9780195396607
Published online December 2009 | | DOI:
Restorative Justice

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Restorative justice refers to a general philosophy, model, or way of practicing justice that stands in contrast to many Western criminal and civil justice proceedings. Restorative justice practices have long historical roots and are known by a variety of names, including victim-offender mediation, community justice conferences, restorative or sentencing circles, victim-offender reconciliation programs, and reparative justice. In restorative justice practices, victims, offenders, and communities affected by a particular offense meet to find a way to “restore” or make amends for the harm resulting from an offense. Rather than rely on legal professionals or the state to render decisions about guilt or innocence and the appropriate type of punishment, restorative justice proceedings delegate that responsibility directly to the parties involved. Participants in restorative justice meetings or conferences vary across settings, ranging from relatively large groups that include a wide circle of supporters for victims and offenders, to smaller groups limited to the victim, offender, a mediator, and a handful of others. Participation in restorative justice proceedings is most often voluntary, typically offered as an alternative to some form of legal proceeding. The precise nature of the meetings also varies, sometimes involving relatively few rules, sometimes closely following a script for action and discussion. The key feature of the meetings is that victims and offenders, and oftentimes others, openly discuss the offense, how it has affected them, and what might be done to remedy the harm. Restorative justice programs are more common for juvenile or first-time offenders than adult or repeat-offenders, and are typically used as a diversionary program in lieu of a formal plea or criminal judgment. These programs also have been used for solving other kinds of problems and disputes, such as nursing home regulation and insurance fraud in lieu of civil litigation. Criminologists study restorative justice programs to determine whether such efforts provide better outcomes than traditional criminal justice system practices. The outcomes typically studied include victim satisfaction and restitution outcomes, and offender recidivism and perceptions of fairness. Evaluations of restorative justice primarily have been conducted for programs in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canada, and the United States.

Article.  3286 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Criminal Justice ; Criminology

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