Restorative and community justice principles are discussed with respect to their nature, their use in current programs and practices, and their probable future.
The theories underlying restorative justice suggest that government should surrender its monopoly over responses to crime to those most directly affected: the victim, the offender, and the community. Community justice redefines the roles and goals of criminal justice agencies to include the broader mission of preventing crime, addressing local social problems and conflicts, and involving neighborhood residents in planning and decision making. Restorative justice and community justice differ sharply from changes in sentencing laws premised on retributive goals. How the two divergent trends will be reconciled remains to be seen. Restorative justice practices include victim-offender mediation, family group conferencing, sentencing circles, and reparative probation and other citizen boards. Community justice practices include community policing and prosecution and applications in courts and corrections. Restorative justice approaches are currently used much more for juveniles than for adults and for minor offenses rather than for serious crime. Experience with community justice has consistently revealed that generating citizen involvement and building relationships with the community is a challenge. Advocates of these values often differ over the desirability of their becoming part of the official criminal justice system. The principles of restorative justice may change criminal justice policies and values in another and arguably better direction even if they cannot completely transform the criminal justice system. The restorative and community justice movements have both spread rapidly and are increasingly reaching out to encompass adult offenders, more serious crime, and disadvantaged urban communities. Case examples, message from the NIJ Director, list of members of the Executive Sessions on Sentencing and Corrections, and 16 reference notes
Date Published: September 1, 1999
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