Traditional discussions about crime frame the debate with two opposing arguments – justice is either hard or soft on crime. Which side of the debate is Restorative Justice on?
There are two indicators that determine if justice is hard or soft: accountability and support. When we say we are hard on crime, offender accountability is high and support is low.
When we say we are soft on crime, offender support is high and accountability is low.
Restorative Justice doesn’t fit with either of these opposing arguments. Restorative Justice happens when both accountability and support are high.
How can these two opposites be blended? It all has to do with understanding that crime is not as a broken rule, but as harmed caused to an individual. Justice is not just a matter of punishment but must include reparation for the harm that was caused. Support allows learning and change to happen so that a crime is not repeated.
Restorative Justice is not hard or soft on crime, it is SMART on crime!
Restorative Justice combines dignity-based support with high expectations of accountability. With high accountability expectations, offenders show higher motivation to make amends, to make personal behavior changes, and to avoid repeating their crime.
Because Restorative Justice can result in lower crime rates, it saves tax-payer dollars. It also saves money when used as a prevention and early intervention strategy so offenders don’t get stuck in “the system”, spiraling into repeated poor choices and more expense to resolve issues.
Restorative Justice heals victims and offenders who want to live in a safe and healthy community that has high expectations and support for its citizens. It helps communities understand what is needed to prevent crime.
The next time you hear that justice is hard or soft on crime, shift the discussion to a SMART solution to crime.