This report will analyze the practicality of restorative justice, procedural, and moral justice, in decreasing the rate of recidivism among criminals.
What is Restorative Justice
Restorative Justice is a philosophy of justice that aims to lower recidivism among criminals. The premise of this type of justice, as its name implies, is to “restore” or repair the relationship between the offender and the community. Ultimately, the goal is to prepare the individual to be restored back into society. This theoretical framework believes that the individual must be held responsible for the harm done. However, it also implies that, in a variety of ways, the offender can contribute and make up for the damage through other methods. (Conklin, 2012, p. 352)
One of the approaches of restorative justice includes making the offender meet the victims, families, and victims’ support groups. This is done through mediators. The offender must be willing to accept that harm was done, and that the feelings of the victim, or the family of the victim, need to be heard. In order to atone for their crime, offenders are expected to provide restitution for their actions in a variety of ways, including with community service. (Conklin, 2012)
According to Conklin (2012) a restorative plan has to be clearly delineated and planned ahead to ensure that all ends are covered. If a meeting between an offender and the victims is to occur, then the mediator needs to understand that emotions will run high. Another important thing is the use of verbiage. Words should be selected carefully not to diminish the emotions or thoughts of those who are grieving. (p. 352)
Another point that Conklin makes is that the offender should be reinstated in a community that does not entice him or her to return to old behaviors. For example, a work program that is located in a place where gangs and drug-related activity takes place is likely to reignite feelings in the offender if he or she has not become entirely rehabilitated. Also, Conklin (2012) mentions adjustment problems. Some ex-convicts may find issue reinstating themselves in the community because of lack of job skills, or for fear of being labeled. All of these things need to be included in a restorative program for it to be successful.
Types of Crime
An ex offender who has hurt someone, for example, or has robbed or stalked, can participate in a Victim-Offender panel, or VOP, to get to know the victims and somehow try and make amends for what they did. According to Conklin (2012), this approach can be used for any type of crime, even murder crimes. The important thing is to allow for the victim’s family and the offender to try and come halfway after all the harm done.
According to professor Jane Murphy (2017), all policies of punishment that have not worked in the 1980s and 1990s show that another approach, aside of punitive, is necessary to lower crime. Restorative justice helps to reduce recidivism; however, society must see where it works best. In cases where the ex-offender is an adult, with a long record of issues, financial issues, marital issues, problems with their children, and overall chaotic environments, the efforts for restoration may go awry (Murphy, 2017). In the case of juveniles, however, the chances for restoration are higher because they are not yet old enough to have significantly more complex problems like adults do. Moreover, some are young enough to be able to place in better schools, vocational programs, and have better chances overall to start over.
Procedural and Moral Justice
Procedural justice believes that people will act and behave depending on how legit they believe the system to be. The more they trust and believe in the legitimacy of the system, and the way in which it operates, the more likely they will be to avoid getting in trouble. People are more likely to comply, and more willing to cooperate, if they believe that the system is working for them, and not against them. The words used by Tyler (2006) are “self-regulatory motivators,” which means that the desire to stay away from bad influences and issues starts from within. (p. 309)
Morality in Procedural Justice
The idea of procedural justice is to make processes and procedures transparent and relevant enough to make citizens trust and mold to the system. Throughout the strengthening of the views and actions of processes, the system of moral values of people is validated, and the want to act according to proper moral codes becomes even stronger. According to Tyler (2006), behavior that is related to law and law-abiding is quite influenced by legitimacy and morality. Therefore, the idea behind both ideas, the procedural and the restorative is to instill in ex-offenders and citizens alike a renewed sense of validation, where people feel that they are working along with the system, and not against it.
The Issue with Morality
Conklin (2012) warns against setting too much stock on the idea of using morality as a self-regulating mechanism when it comes to procedural justice. Moral compasses differ from individual to individual. The idea of a moral system of values is abstract and, for that reason, it is impossible to attempt to self-regulate anyone’s views on it whether it is an offender or a non-offender. In contrast, legitimacy is perhaps easier to demonstrate because data can be used to show the relationship between the community and law enforcement, and whether it is improving through decreased crime and better community relationships.
Therefore, the best course of action would be to encourage people to adhere to their own system of values and realize that doing so will help everyone in the long run. As far as legitimacy, law enforcement agencies can definitely strengthen bonds with a better approach at communication with offenders, and perhaps with programs in place to strengthen the bonds with community members.
Procedural and moral justice and crime
Crimes such as robbery and theft, assault, cybercrimes, and even cases of domestic violence are cited by Tyler (2006) as offenses that can lead to self-regulation through the application of a fair procedural process. A person who is treated fairly and with the benefit of the doubt may feel compelled to express their motivation behind the commission of their crime. This can lead to open new channels of communication where help can be found, and situations could be fixed quickly.
Which Lives Matter?
Unfortunately, based on the latest events that had led to the war of “Blue Lives Matter” and “Black Lives Matter” it is arguable that those were situations where the exact opposite occurred. Rather than approaching a domestic disturbance call with an open mind and a willingness to communicate with the offender, police officers often go with in a “fight or flight” mode that very well could be a defense mechanism. Still, one must wonder how we go from there to shooting an unarmed citizen 5-12 times, like in the most recent cases published in the media, namely, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin (even though it was a vigilante who shot him), and many more. Something in the way of communication is not working, and people are dying as a result of that. Moreover, people are not trusting the system, and this has led to the social media uproar against police officers that we see today. Could recidivism ever lower in numbers using this approach? (Winter, 2016)
Which is better?
Based on research, and on psychological theories, the most useful approach may be the restorative approach. According to a study by the Sam Houston State University, published in Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice four different types of restorative programs for youths were applied. In each case, individuals were chosen based on their personality traits, temperament and other behavioral factors to ensure that the treatment would match with them. In a 5-year period, 50% of the youths who went through the traditional court-provided programs committed offenses within a 3-year period. Only 31% committed new offenses. When faced with a more intensive restorative program to change that, that amount went significantly lower using direct mediation, community panels, one-on-one support, and victim and offender communication panels. (Crocker, 2015)
Regardless of which justice is preferred, psychological, biological, and social theories of crime all agree in that the best course of action is to deflect criminal behavior by offering new and better options. Having programs that give offenders options, and a renewed sense of trust in the system, will likely result in their best behavior. If, on the other hand, the process is not done procedurally and with every consideration in mind, the whole thing may backfire, sending an offender straight into recidivism again.
Conklin, T (2012), Criminology, 11th Ed Boston: Pearson
Crocker, D. 2015 Implementing and Evaluating Restorative Justice Projects in Prison
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice (26) 1 retrieved from
Murphy, S. (2018) Restorative justice: healing victims and reducing crime The Baltimore Sun
Tyler, T. R. (2006). Restorative justice and procedural justice: Dealing with rule
breaking. Journal of Social Issues, 62(2), 307–326. DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.2006.00452.x
Winter, R. (2016) Black lives matter: Psychological research findings offer ways to foster
justice. APA Monitor (47) 2. American Psychological Association
retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2016/02/jn.aspx