Redesigning Restorative Justice for Criminal Justice Reform
64 Pages Posted: 11 May 2020 Last revised: 27 Jun 2022
Date Written: May 9, 2020
Considering the racial disparities in the criminal justice system and the pressing need for reform, this article presents the optimal design for restorative justice that is capable of drawing the necessary public support to transform the criminal justice system. Restorative justice is a growing alternative to the criminal justice system designed to allow offenders, victims, and members of the community resolve crimes without resorting to the criminal justice system. Public support for restorative justice programs is vital to their success, and many programs fail because of inconsistent public support. As such, proponents of restorative justice emphasize the need to “start small and pure” with the hope that strategic programs will incrementally garner greater public support. However, there is a troubling lack of empirical data on how to “start small and pure.” This article addresses this gap by exploring when the public is more likely to support restorative justice practices. Using a series of original public opinion survey experiments, this article argues that the public is more likely to support restorative justice for (1) juvenile offenders over adult offenders, (2) nonviolent offenders over violent offenders, and (3) first-time offenders over repeat offenders. Furthermore, the article finds that the U.S. public is no less likely to support pre-arraignment diversion programs and pre-sentence probation programs than the traditional criminal justice system. These findings suggest that restorative justice programs that prioritize diverting nonviolent, first-time, juvenile offenders through pre-arraignment restorative justice practices or reducing their sentences through pre-sentence restorative justice practices hold the most promise to reforming the criminal justice system.
Keywords: public opinion, criminal justice, victim offender mediation, restorative justice, alternative dispute resolution
JEL Classification: K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation