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Restorative Justice: An Alternative to Incarceration?

September 27, 2016, on Criminal Defense Articles |

For defendants who seek legal help from a Schenectady criminal defense attorney, incarceration is often the worst fear when facing criminal charges. Being jailed can take you away from work and family, and it can have an adverse impact on your life. In many cases, incarceration provides no benefits to defendants and does little to provide relief for victims of crimes.

In recognition of the fact that incarceration is not always the best approach to dealing with a criminal act, states are increasingly considering alternatives, such as restorative justice. Since mass incarceration has become a big problem in the U.S. and states are spending huge sums of money to imprison substantial portions of the population (often for minor offenses), restorative justice may be a far better answer than imprisonment.

Could Restorative Justice Help Stop Mass Incarceration?

PBS reported on the new push for restorative justice.  Typically, restorative justice programs are used as an alternative to prosecution and potentially imprisoning defendants who are charged with crimes.

Restorative justice practices are borrowed from indigenous cultures and they are seen as a way to help people understand and think through the consequences of their actions.

Defendants don't fight the charges when a restorative justice approach is taken. Instead, they agree to accept responsibility for their actions. They then meet face-to-face with the victims of the crimes they have been accused of committing and a plan is created in order for the defendant accused of the crime to repair the harm that has been caused.

Restorative justice is a popular option with juvenile offenders, and restorative justice has been used in the juvenile justice system since as far back as the late 1970's. The PBS article provided as an example a case in which a teen was accused of stealing from a hardware store. He and his parents sat down with the hardware store owner and agreed that the teen would make amends by getting good grades, meeting with a counselor weekly and paying the hardware store owner back for the stolen goods.

Teens are not the only ones who could benefit from this type of system, and some jurisdictions, recognizing the success of restorative justice for youth offenders, are now turning to restorative justice not just for juvenile offenders but for adults as well.  Restorative justice is being incorporated into probation programs for adult offenders who avoid prison time. 

The official move towards embracing restorative justice comes after many police departments have informally used this approach for years. Police have worked with nonprofit organizations to get offenders together with victims, although they have not had support or permission from the state in every case to take this approach as an alternative to prosecution.

While restorative justice is becoming more common, not every defendant is seen as a good candidate for this approach. If you have been charged with a crime and you want to avoid prosecution, you should discuss your options with a criminal defense attorney at The Law Office of James E. Tyner, PLLC. An attorney will discuss with you whether you could potentially be a candidate for restorative justice as an alternative to incarceration.  Contact our office today.

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