A new kind of justice
Oct 29, 2009
From Fresno, Calif., to Hempstead, N.Y., hundreds of communities in the country are using “ restorative justice” to deal with criminals. Offenders must take responsibility for their actions and try to repair the harm they’ve done—by apologizing, returning stolen money, or doing community service, for example. “People find a way to right the wrong, and that’s the beauty of it,” says Beverly Title, who runs a program in Longmont, Colo. Restorative justice can work in lieu of the criminal-justice system or in partnership with it.
“People respond to crime by saying, ‘Lock ‘em up!’” says Scott Wood, director of the Center for Restorative Justice at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. But that approach can be disastrous. “ Guys go to prison and learn to do even more terrible things,” Wood explains. “Restorative justice lets them accept responsibility for what they did and become a better person.”
In Longmont, restorative justice is used instead of the court system mostly for juvenile crime. “Nine out of 10 of our offenders complete their agreement, and charges are dropped,” Title says. Only 10% of them end up committing another crime, compared to about 70% of those who go through the traditional criminal-justice system.