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Making a difference through restorative justice

June 30, 2021

Is it possible for the victim of a crime to find healing and forgiveness and for the offender to face their victim and the consequences of their actions and the harm it has caused?  It is possible through restorative justice processes.  The purpose of restorative justice is to encourage collaboration and restoration rather than oppression and isolation.

According to an article from Charter for Compassion, under the current system, over 6.7 million adults or 3.1 percent of the adult population are behind bars, on probation, or parole. Research shows that incarceration - instead of curbing crime - makes nonviolent offenders into violent criminals and is a revolving door in and out of prison.

Restorative justice originated in the 1970s as mediation or reconciliation between victims and offenders. Restorative justice is a community-based approach to dealing with crime, the effects of crime, and the prevention of crime.  Restorative justice is a worldwide phenomenon.  While it seeks to elevate the role of the victim and the community, offenders are held accountable to the people they have harmed and are given the opportunity to face their victims and the community with the possibility of restoring trust between the victim, the community, and the offender by providing an opportunity for discussion, problem-solving, and healing.  Community courts are listening, engaging, and involving their communities according to an April 2021 Trending Topics article.

In Illinois, the Circuit Court of Cook County, in July 2020, launched the state’s first Restorative Justice Community Court to resolve conflicts through restorative conferences and peace circles.  Victims have the opportunity to directly address the defendant to express their feelings and defendants were encouraged to take responsibility for their actions.

The Judicial Council of California and the Administrative Office of the Court presented Balanced and Restorative Justice, a manual describing the history, concepts, and practices of balanced and restorative justice.  California has joined other states to acknowledge that a growing body of evidence indicates that balanced and restorative justice processes work to strengthen offenders’ sense of responsibility and connections to the community.

In the article, The Compassionate Court: Reforming the Justice System Inside and Outside, retired Judge Jamey H. Hueston states that compassion is kindness or generosity of the heart, sympathy in action, and sympathy with another’s distress combined with a desire to do something about it.

Has your court implemented a restorative justice program? Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest and share your experiences!

For more information, contact Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164.