Retributive vs. Restorative Justice

This table illustrates the differences in the approach to justice between Retributive Justice and Restorative Justice. As you will see, Restorative Justice is much more community centric and focuses on making the victim whole.

Retributive Justice

Crime is an act against the state, a violation of a law, an abstract idea

The criminal justice system controls crime

Offender accountability defined as taking punishment

Crime is an individual act with individual responsibility

Punishment is effective:

  • Threats of punishment deter crime
  • Punishment changes behavior

Victims are peripheral to the process

The offender is defined by deficits

Focus on establishing blame or guilt, on the past (did he/she do it?)

Emphasis on adversarial relationship

Imposition of pain to punish and deter/prevent

Community on sideline, represented abstractly by state

Response focused on offender’s past behavior

Dependence upon proxy professionals

Restorative Justice

Crime is an act against another person and the community

Crime control lies primarily in the community

Accountability defined as assuming responsibility and taking action to repair harm

Crime has both individual and social dimensions of responsibility

Punishment alone is not effective in changing behavior and is disruptive to community harmony and good relationships

Victims are central to the process of resolving a crime.

The offender is defined by capacity to make reparation

Focus on the problem solving, on liabilities/obligations, on the future (what should be done?)

Emphasis on dialogue and negotiation

Restitution as a means of restoring both parties; goal of reconciliation/restoration

Community as facilitator in restorative process

Response focused on harmful consequences of offender’s behavior; emphasis is on the future

Direct involvement by participants

Crime Wounds ~ Justice Heals

Conflict Solutions Center