April 19-25 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW), and Justice Fellowship, the public policy arm of Prison Fellowship, is examining the six values in its restorative justice framework that pertain to victims of crime.
Today, we highlight the restorative justice value of restitution.
The idea of “paying back” is fundamental to justice and restoration, and it defines the fourth principle in our restorative justice framework that concerns victims.
Here are some simple examples of making restitution:
- Julie takes a toy from her friend’s house and subsequently breaks it. Her parents help Julie count out enough money from her piggy bank to pay to replace it. After Julie apologizes for what she did, she gives the money to her friend.
- Jason is angry at his mother for asking him to do something, so he decides to throw her favorite antique lamp on the floor in protest. Jason’s father knows that the consequences for the temper tantrum are separate from what Jason should do to make restitution for the broken antique. After addressing the tantrum, the parents discuss options for pay back with Jason. Jason’s mother agrees to accept his washing of the dishes every night for a certain number of months as a pay back, even though she knows his work won’t equal the monetary or sentimental value of the piece that he broke.
Back in the grown-up world, the principle of restitution still should apply whenever someone harms another person or property. Restorative justice upholds this principle, calling for the individual who caused harm or damage to make restitution of his or her actions to the victim in some way, if possible. It’s a vital part of holding responsible parties accountable and securing justice for victims.
While restitution may be thought of in monetary terms, as we can see from the example of Julie and her friend, it can also be other forms of repayment, like community service. Ideally, within the criminal justice process, restitution satisfies three criteria:
- the responsible party reaches an agreement with harmed party on the amount and type of restitution to be paid;
- the restitution is directly related to the type of harm; and
- the restitution is a direct payment from the responsible party to the harmed party.
Because Justice Fellowship works to give victims a voice in the justice process, we advocate for access to restorative justice programs that give victims the opportunity to develop an individualized restitution plan with the person who has harmed them. Through this process, victims can ask questions about the crime and determine what accountability for the responsible party should look like.