Social Question

Demosthenes's avatar

Is it time to consider "restorative justice" and/or prison abolition?

Asked by Demosthenes (10328points) January 27th, 2020

“Restorative justice is an approach to justice in which one of the responses to a crime is to organize a meeting between the victim and the offender, sometimes with representatives of the wider community. The goal is for them to share their experience of what happened, to discuss who was harmed by the crime and how, and to create a consensus for what the offender can do to repair the harm from the offense.”

Some advocates believe that restorative justice could eventually replace prison and jail and the “punishment” model of the legal system. We all seem to agree that the American legal system is broken. Maybe it’s time to consider some alternatives to the status quo.

Restorative justice has become a topic du jour in some news circles and while no [Democratic] presidential candidates seem to be considering it at the moment, it’s conceivable that it will become a normal part of policy platforms in the future.

Could it ever work? Could it only work for non-violent crimes or could it be applied to all crimes?

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18 Answers

hmmmmmm's avatar

@Demosthenes: “and while no [Democratic] presidential candidates seem to be considering it at the moment”

Sanders does mention it:

“Expand the use of sentencing alternatives, including community supervision and publicly funded halfway houses. This includes funding state-based pilot programs to establish alternatives to incarceration, including models based on restorative justice and free access to treatment and social services.”

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I have no desire to meet with my rapist to discuss how he harmed me and what he could do to repair any damage.
I imagine he’d like that too much.
Sociopaths don’t operate that way anyway unless they’re going to work the system, which of course they’ll do.

ragingloli's avatar

Only supplementarily, only for lesser offences, and only if both parties agree to it without coercion, with the option to cancel the negotiations at any time, for any reason.

Smashley's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille You’re imagining a scenario that wouldn’t happen under any new model. There is such a thing as common sense still. The first scenario from the OPs quote was that this was one type of response to a crime that they use.

A restorative justice model, US style would have some minimum standards for offenders: no rape, no puppies, no pedo, preferably rich, famous will do.

Inspired_2write's avatar

I would think that it would give off the impression of light sentences for a crime and most likely feel like a free pass for inmates?
It would make crime rates go up since it is such a light sentence?( like a slap on the hand, so to speak)?

Smashley's avatar

The hardest part of any large new program like this is anticipating how people will abuse it, and convincing people there is still large benefit to the new system, even though there is abuse of the system.

For example

I’m in favor of cashless bail. Sometimes, a person out on bail kills a young woman, and it becomes a massive news story and political issue because this crime is deemed “extra bad” because it “shouldn’t have happened”. In reality it’s just another person who violated the public trust, and to forever distrust hurts us all.

A much less interesting story is about the single parents who didn’t lose their jobs while waiting for trial, or the kids who didn’t go to CPS because there was no one at home, or the intellectually disabled 300 pound man who didn’t get shot by police while searching for his caregiver. The tragedies of the system are so many, and so much less interesting to society.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Is restorative justice forced on the parties?

I can easily see how either the victim (or family of the victim) would have no interest in meeting the criminal, and vice versa. I can’t see any benefit to forcing either party.

Frankly, I think it is a cockamamie idea, except in all but a very few situations with highly specific factual situations. And I can see it backfiring badly.

Seems like a kumbaya sort of neoliberal-hippie lovefest, which is probably why Sanders supports it.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Inspired_2write “It would make crime rates go up since it is such a light sentence?”

As I understand it, it’s not the harshness of the punishment but the degree of certainty of being caught that determines how much a particular punishment will deter offenses.

So if shoplifting were punished by a $50 fine, but there was a 99.9% that you’ll be caught, The rate of shoplifting would be incredibly low. Conversely, if you chop off people’s hands for shoplifting but only catch 0.1% of the offenders, then humans tend to take the risk despite the potential for devastating consequence.

JLeslie's avatar

It depends on the crime, and depends on the will of the victim. I wouldn’t be ok with forcing a victim to participate. I wouldn’t be ok with setting certain criminals free. I am ok with providing this opportunity to victims and perpetrators.

I do think there are a lot of people in jail who shouldn’t be there, but I also think there are people who should be there who aren’t, because of light sentences.

Most important is I think we need to fix society before the crime. Why are the crimes being committed?

seawulf575's avatar

It would work for some crimes, but would not work for others. It also assumes that the victim would be okay with meeting their offender. Let’s say someone was brutally raped and tortured. Think that person would be okay with coming face to face with the offender? They would likely be traumatized. Not to mention you could have criminals tell their victims that if they are caught and have to face restorative justice, they will come back and kill not only that person but all their family and friends as well.
The place it would potentially work is with white collar crime. The tools that bankrupted all the savings and loans back in the 80’s for instance, might have to face the music to all those that were impacted by their crimes. And if you did this, you would have to make it so the criminals couldn’t weasel out of their punishments. In the case I just mentioned, for instance, the criminals often times put their ill gotten gains in secret pr protected bank accounts or give it to their family members so they can’t lose it.

dabbler's avatar

Check out the section on prisons in Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next
.
Not only does the movie show a “prison” system with exemplary results (esp less repeat offenders), but he points out that the concepts came from the U.S.a century ago.

Kardamom's avatar

If I was the victim, I would not ever want to see the perpetrators, unless that person was behind bars AND doing forced restitution for the crimes, although that would never really fix the problem. The damage is already done. I can’t imagine, except under very extraordinary and rare circumstances, in which the perpetrator of a crime would be “helped” by meeting the victims. It just doesn’t work that way. Mostly the perpetrators don’t care, and are way too likely to make the situation into a double victimization for the person who was trespassed against in the first place. So no.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@Kardamom -“Mostly the perpetrators don’t care” Exactly! -and not just in cases of rape,physical violence, etc.
The idea that they would is laughable

SergeantQueen's avatar

Restorative justice shouldn’t replace prison.
It should be an OPTION for both victims (mainly victims) and offender to do, and depending on the crime and state laws it could count as good time days but I don’t know.
It takes these victims years to get to the point of being able to confront their offender, and not everyone can do that.
The Sycamore Tree Project is a good example of restorative justice working.

I agree with restorative justice. It should be used more. It should not be forced or a replacement for prison. For similar reasons to what @lucillelucillelucille said.
These people should be vetted to make sure they are genuine before being able to talk to the victim. Some sick asshole may get off on the pain caused. Similar to Lucille, I have zero interest at this point in my life in making any attempts to forgive the person that hurt me. None. That’s why I don’t think it should replace prison, just be a part of the healing process for the victim and for the offender to realize the true consequences.

seawulf575's avatar

Maybe what we need is a bit more of this sort of justice:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Cicconetti

I think it speaks volumes that his recidivism rate is around 10% while the national average is about 75%.

MrGrimm888's avatar

In short, this is not a universal strategy.
Especially when it comes to violent offenders.
Incarceration, has a two fold reasoning. The time, is punishment, and designed to keep a bad person, off of the streets. To prevent further harm society.
Rehabilitation, is largely up to the individual.
A lot of inmates, work out, and learn from other criminals. Making them more, of a danger to society.
That’s obviously, not good.

There are many, who do seek higher education. And, that helps them, and their community. Many who go through therapy. And that helps them too.
But. There are many, who will come out after working out all day , and learning more about crime, from talking to others .

If rehabilitation, I is the ultimate goal . Prison, is not the way to go. It ultimately lands, a harder version of the the person who was sentenced, in a state , where they are more capable of repeating the crimes, that put them behind bars, to begin with.

Plenty, are recoverable. But. They are more likely to accumulate, with their cell mate,than a positive person.

Just from observed behavior.

LostInParadise's avatar

This is going to require a lot of thought and exploration. It is natural to want to see people punished for their crimes. This is especially true for the victims, who should have the final word as to whether restorative justice is appropriate. Ultimately, restorative justice could be a benefit to society. Instead of just staying in a jail cell, criminals could do things that are socially useful, changing their attitude toward society and making it less likely that they will commit crimes after they are released.

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