Measuring Restorative Justice

Second in a series of papers on restorative justice by Ron Claassen, Director of the Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies at Fresno Pacific University and Founding Executive Director of Victim Offender Reconciliation Program of the Central Valley.

These articles first appeared in the newsletter of VORP of the Central Valley and may be reproduced in works not produced for profit so long as they are not edited for content, the source is acknowledged, and the legend "Printed by permission" is included. Reproducible hard copy of the graphic for publication is available on request.

© 1996 Ron Claassen

Restorative Justice is becoming popular, and I find that exciting. For example, some states have designated a person in their departmentof corrections to provide education and promote Restorative Justice. Here in California, there are several bills in the legislaturethat include the term "Restorative Justice."

The US Department of Justice recently sponsored a conference onRestorative Justice and has established several research projectsin an attempt to measure the effectiveness of some programs thatcall themselves Restorative Justice programs. Bibliographieson Restorative Justice now include several hundred titles. Weprovided training to help establish nine new VORPs last year,and this year the interest is growing. The list of examples couldgo on and on.

My hope is that the term "Restorative Justice" willbe filled with meaning to provide a guide and standard for howRestorative Justice is implemented and measured. My fear is thatthe term Restorative Justice may be used but the actions and outcomeswill not be restorative.

The Restorative Justice PrinciplesI presented in the newsletters last fall were an attempt to contributeto developing a common understanding of what we mean when we usethe term and a step toward how Restorative Justice might be implemented.

The table below offers some continuums that I think might be helpful inmeasuring our actions and/or outcomes to determine if our justiceprocesses are actually implementing Restorative Justice. I usecontinuums with the arrows extending them because they give usthe message that we are not talking about a simple either/or situation;nor are we likely to arrive at a place where it cannot be improved.

The J-Scale: Measuring Restorative Justice

Moral wrong of crime (violation of persons and relationships) minimizednot RJ<1-2-3-4-5>RJMoral wrong of crime recognized
Victim, community and offender safety concerns recognizednot RJ<1-2-3-4-5>RJVictim, community and offender safety concerns primary
Disempower victims, offenders and community from acting constructivelynot RJ<1-2-3-4-5>RJEmpower victims, offenders and community to act constructively
"Making things as right as possible" a secondary concernnot RJ<1-2-3-4-5>RJPrimary focus on "making things as right as possible" (repair injuries, relationships and physical damage)
Primary focus on violation of lawnot RJ<1-2-3-4-5>RJViolation of law a secondary concern
Victim wounds and healing ignorednot RJ<1-2-3-4-5>RJVictim wounds and healing important
Offender wounds and healing ignorednot RJ<1-2-3-4-5>RJOffender wounds and healing important
Primary decisions and activity between offender and gov't; offender family, victim and community ignorednot RJ<1-2-3-4-5>RJPrimary decisions and activity between victim and offender (or substitutes) and their communities, with government help as needed
Actions of officials with coercive power or in positions of authority left uncheckednot RJ<1-2-3-4-5>RJAll actions tested by whether they are reasonable, related and respectful
Government coercive/authority structures the primary response; victims, community and offender left out of processnot RJ<1-2-3-4-5>RJGovernment coercive/authority structures used as backup when victim or offender not cooperative or either sees the process as unfair
Coercion assumed as primary mode of relating to offenders; orders given to offender rather than inviting offender to be cooperative; no attempt at agreementsnot RJ<1-2-3-4-5>RJInvitations to offender to be cooperative are primary; agreements preferred over orders; coercion backup response
Placements focus on restrictions and following ordersnot RJ<1-2-3-4-5>RJPlacements focus on safety and/or training and equipping for living in community
Religious/faith community not involved in justice processnot RJ<1-2-3-4-5>RJReligious/faith community encouraged and invited into cooperative aspects of justice process


26 or Less • Justice response dominated by government andvery costly: emotionally, spiritually, and financially. Highfear in the community. Many mini -communities alienated and angry. Very high crime rate.

52 or More • Justice response balanced between governmentand community. Mini and macro communities empowered to participatein and contribute to the emotional, spiritual, and financial healthof all the members of the community. Very low crime rate.

Return to the Restorative Justice Project.