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Restitutionism Defended

Ellin, Joseph
June 4, 2015

Source: (2000) Journal of Value Inquiry. 34:299-317.

Restitutionism is a perspective that most of what is now considered a crime would be treated as a tort. Criminal law as a distinct body of rules would be abolished, along with most prisons and public police. In civil proceedings victims would seek damages for harms they suffered, and offenders would pay compensation to victims instead of serving time in jail or prison. In this essay, Joseph Ellin defends restitutionism. He contends it would be less expensive and would put the cost of crime back on the criminal. Also, it would aid victims in ways they are not being aided under the current criminal law system. Restitutionism, Ellin writes, holds that compensation is a better response than retribution. It seeks justice through compensation rather than through punishment. Proponents of restitutionism regard the preference for punishment over restitution as morally disturbing. Ellin explores all of this in relation to issues such as deterrence, the needs and rights of victims, types of crimes, and certain practical problems pertaining to restitutionism.


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