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.See also Cohen's recent report, "Reviving Restorative Justice: A Blueprint for Texas" (pdf). Go here for more background on restorative justice.
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.
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: