Source: (1997) Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice National Institute of Justice.

This paper provides an overview of the characteristics and benefits of the implementation of "Restorative Justice" in the processing of criminal cases. Restorative justice addresses both the process and the goal of justice. Under these principles, the victim plays a central role, and the sanction process is more personal. Crime is considered first an offense against the individual and the community, rather than the state. The offender is held accountable to right the wrong and to repay the damage, with more direct involvement of the principals and greater emphasis on consensus processes rather than adversarial ones; victims are given choices. One example of restorative justice is the use of victim-offender mediation, in which the victim is offered the opportunity to confront the offender with a trained mediator, either directly or through video. Restitution agreements are reached through the mediation process. Research shows that this process reduces fear, increases satisfaction, and improves restitution payment. Another example of restorative justice is family group conferences and sentencing circles. Under these structures, victims and their families meet in a mediated setting with the offenders and their families to discuss the case, how to repay the damage, and what penalty should apply. A restorative justice sanction particularly appropriate for crimes with no specific victim is community service. The specific service required of the offender should in some way be related to the harm caused. Other restorative-justice concepts discussed are restitution, sentencing decisions, victim impact panels, and citizen reparative boards. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service, www.ncjrs.org.