Nov 23, 2023 | The Blog

Restorative Justice. Restored Lives.

The Blog

Restorative justice is a set of principles and practices that create a different approach to dealing with crime and its impacts. Instead of viewing a criminal act as simply a violation of a rule or statute, restorative justice sees this action as a violation of people and relationships. It seeks to examine the harmful impact of a crime and then determines what can be done to repair that harm while holding the person who caused it accountable for his or her actions.

Rather than justice as “punishment,” restorative justice conceives of justice as “repair” to the harm caused by crime and conflict. Understanding and responding to the needs of each involved party and the broader community is central to the collective creation of a just outcome.

Impact on Communities
Restorative justice has a significant impact on communities. It strengthens the community by addressing the systemic causes of crime and working towards a healthier and safer environment for all. It also creates a stronger sense of control and closer relationships among participants, which can lead to a more cohesive and supportive community.

Studies indicate that restorative justice programs have public support, and victims feel they are treated more fairly. Offenders are held more accountable, victims are less fearful of revictimization, and offenders commit fewer and less serious crimes.

Preventing Recidivism
Restorative justice plays a crucial role in preventing recidivism, which is the tendency of a convicted criminal to re-offend. Research shows that restorative justice programs can have an impact on offender recidivism that ranges from a two to eight percent reduction in recidivism.
In Memphis, Tennessee, the Summons Review Program (SRP), a diversionary program for first-time misdemeanor offenders, has shown promising results. The average recidivism rate for this program over the past several years is 11.5%, which indicates that 88.5% of the children who have participated in this program have not had any further delinquent contact with the court.

The Final Word
Restorative justice, focusing on repairing harm and restoring relationships, offers a transformative approach to dealing with crime. It provides a more compassionate and fair treatment for victims and holds offenders accountable in a way that promotes their reintegration into society. By reducing recidivism and fostering a healthier community, restorative justice plays a crucial role in creating restored lives and a more just society.

In Memphis, organizations like the Shelby County Office of Re-Entry, the National Offender Reentry Association, Lifeline to Success, and Hope 2 Hire are working towards these goals, helping individuals transition back to society and preventing them from returning to a path to prison. The success of restorative justice programs in reducing recidivism in the city is a testament to the transformative potential of this approach.

Restorative Justice is respect. Respect for all, even those who are different from us; even those who seem to be our enemies. Respect reminds us of our interconnectedness, but also of our differences. Respect insists we balance concerns for all parties. If we pursue justice as respect, we will do justice restoratively.

Howard Zehr, a pioneer in the field

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