Readers willing to spend an hour or so with the book’s 71 pages may find themselves contemplating society’s current approach to delivering “justice” in cases of wrongdoing. We tend to focus on punishment, whether that means expelling a kid from school or imposing a lengthy prison sentence. Elected officials, including lawmakers, county prosecutors and sheriffs, think the public wants them to “give offenders what they deserve.”
Where is the victim in that equation? Does it discourage offenders from future wrongdoing? Restorative justice focuses more on ensuring offenders take responsibility for the harm they have done. It seeks ways to make things right for those who have been wronged.
This isn’t just a philosophy. Its principles are increasingly being used by police and court officials, particularly in dealing with youth. Perhaps a teenager meets with the person whose car he vandalized. He pays for damage, apologizes and recognizes that his stupidity hurt an actual person. Rather than being a financial burden to all of us in detention, he is given a chance to pay society back with community service.
Restorative justice is a reminder that there is more than one way to teach someone a lesson.