Monday, December 23, 2013

TPPF: 'Texas should lead on restorative justice'

Derek Cohen of the Texas Public Policy Foundation has an interesting essay in the SA Express-News titled, "Texas should lead on restorative justice." The article opens:
As children, we learn two wrongs don't make a right. However, a wrong can often be made right. To accomplish this in the criminal justice system, we must prioritize the role of wronged individuals, rather than viewing the government as the victim.

Our legal tradition marginalizes the victim from the process. The government also has primary claim to all payments received from the offender, often put toward satisfying court fees and criminal fines before they are passed on to the victim. If the offender is incarcerated, a victim is likely to see little to no restitution. While incarceration may be necessary to incapacitate violent offenders and career property offenders, Texas puts many offenders in jail for offenses such as shoplifting and hot checks, where a restorative justice approach that emphasizes restitution could achieve better results for victims, taxpayers and offenders.

Restorative justice programs place the focus on the victim. The victim, in mediation with the offender, establishes an agreement involving an apology, restitution, and, in many cases, community service. These programs can begin before or after the trial phase, all with the consent of the victim. The mediation begins with the victim or a proxy acknowledging to the offender the harm caused. The offender accepts responsibility and begins working toward repayment.

Ideally, restorative justice programs are entered into as diversions, not as a formal sanction. This ensures “good faith” by the offender, as opposed to a ploy to avoid punishment.

Globally, victim-offender mediation programs have shown promise, particularly for nonviolent and first-time offenders. They decrease repeat offenses and increase the percentage of victims who receive restitution. These programs also cut costs over traditional forms of sentencing.
See also Cohen's recent report, "Reviving Restorative Justice: A Blueprint for Texas" (pdf). Go here for more background on restorative justice.


Anonymous said...

I believe in community supervision. I believe in community corrections. I believe in restorative justice. The problem is who is going to determine who is the first time offender and who is and isn't violent?

It may seem like an easy enough task, but when you have lawyers (district attorneys, defense counsel, and judges) involved, they simply get in the way of the process of common sense approaches like restorative justice.

If it was the DA that handled a restorative justice approach for offenders, then it would become part of the plea agreement, and the plea agreement, although the system couldn't survive without it, is part of the problem and part of the reason 1 in 100 are behind bars.

If you put probation in charge of a restorative justice approach, they would get nowhere because they "work for" the Judge. Further, if restorative justice was attempted by probation after sentencing, and the offender didn't want to do it, and the offender called their lawyer, well, back in the same boat.

The only way restorative justice will ever work in Texas is if statute were approved by the Legislature and the parties involved were required to offer the incentive of restorative justice. Further, the statute would have to be monitored to where whatever entity was put in charge would be sanctioned if they failed to follow statute.

Restorative Justice, great idea, but try putting it into practice with no funding, no statute, and see how much more victimization will occur.

Anonymous said...

Yes indeed. Restorative Justice without addressing/rewarding/sanctioning all entities in the criminal justice system is little more than esoteric rhetoric regarding the abstract.

Anonymous said...

One reason that it might never take hold in Texas is related to the concept of Insurance and being insured.

Ex: crime victims state in police reports that the dollar amount of their lose is say - $1000.00 When in fact it's around $300.00

They file a claim with insurance company and boom they are compensated. The damage is repaired and or replaced. (Insurance goes up for everyone victims and non victims alike)

If they were to be faced with taking time to mediate with the criminal(s), they'd be forced to accept the details of a deal and have to wait for payments that don't offer any chances of bonuses.

It's a rackett.

*both of you makes very good points and its a shame that a lot more people didn't take time to weigh in on the post and the solutions and the loopholes.

Anonymous said...

I suggest if Texas wants to take the lead in restorative justice, they should spend extensive time in Vermont as it this philosophy is mandated across the state and thriving. It works.