Thursday, September 08, 2005

Restorative Justice in Texas

The conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation's Center for Effective Justice has published a new report, "Restorative Justice in Texas: Past, Present and Future," by Director Marc Levin. According to Levin, restorative justice is about "transforming, not simply warehousing, offenders through initiatives such as victim-offender interaction programs that emphasize accountability and penance." I haven't read it all yet, but wanted to at least post the link (pdf). Here's a taste, though, of the kind of thinking in the report that you might not have heard from a conservative think tank in Texas a decade ago:
Ultimately, the fact that Texas has 150,000 prisoners and 450,000 probationers will continue to pose a significant challenge to the implementation of restorative justice initiatives. Through reductions in these totals, more resources can be made available for innovative programs and these programs can therefore reach a greater percentage of offenders. Also, by reducing the number of offenders on probation, the remaining offenders can be more closely supervised by probation officers to ensure they are meeting conditions, such as attending therapy and paying restitution.
Fewer people in prison and on probation -- a conservative agenda item? That's a welcome shift


Anonymous said...

The quote you have given us from the report clearly signals a different spirit from the conservative attitude popular among both Democrats and Republicans in the 1990s. It was commonly believed that mass incarceration would make society safer simply by removing the bad people from the streets. This approach has clearly failed. But it is difficult to apply the principles of restorative justice to drug crime. Take your average drug dealer--to whom should they make restitution? Their willing customers? Their children? Their parents? The parents or children of their customers? The neighborhood in which they grew up? Drug dealing may not be a victimless crime in the sense that prostitution is, but the similarities outweigh the differences. Drug dealers often tell me they are simply following the logic of the market by supplying a demand. They see themselves as the rough equivalents of tobacco companies--their product may be destructive, but the customer wants it. Hummers may be gas-guzzling dispoilers of the environment, but people want to buy them. In what sense do products like marijuana and crack cocaine differ from Hummers and Marlboros? I'm not saying there is no difference; I'm saying that the difference has not been sufficiently examined. Conservatives love the market--until the conversation shifts to the subject of drugs. Or, more accurately, conservatives love legal markets (no matter how destructive) but despise black markets (no matter how inevitable).

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I may write more on this over the weekend, but TPPF's restorative justice angles on drugs amount to advocating for drug courts, expanded treatment options, etc., pointing out that the number of TDCJ residential treatment beds has actually declined in recent years. More TK. Thanks, Alan.