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Restitution and Restorative Justice in Juvenile Justice and School Discipline

NCJ Number
Youth Studies Australia Volume: 22 Issue: 4 Dated: December 2003 Pages: 44-51
Barry A. Fields
Date Published
December 2003
8 pages
This paper examines the concept and process of restitution within legislation and how restitution is used by the Australian justice system as a response to youth crime.
In an effort to respond to seemingly ever-increasing youth crime problems, government, community care programs, police, schools, and the juvenile justice system in Australia are collaborating to find effective ways of intervening with youth crime. Restitution as one path to the rehabilitation of youthful offenders developed out of this collaboration. Court-ordered restitution has become a significant feature of sentencing regimes for both juvenile and adult offenders, which represents the emerging belief that offenders should be held accountable for their crimes and that victims of crime deserve compensation. There is a growing body of research indicating that substantial reductions in juvenile recidivism have co-occurred with the use of court-ordered restitution. Drawing on this success, the concept of restitution can be seen outside of the formal justice system, such as within school behavior management policies where informal restitution mechanisms have historically been used by teachers. A case study of a 14-year-old girl with multiple disciplinary problems is offered to illustrate how the concept and process of restitution functions. In this case, a restitution plan was created by the offender herself, the restitution plan met the expectations of the victim, and resulted in the restoration of key relationships in the life of the offender. Thus, a strong positive outcome was affected through the use of a restorative justice model. Restorative justice models represent a different way of viewing crime in which any criminal act is primarily viewed as a conflict between individuals resulting in harm to victims and, ultimately, to offenders themselves. Within Australia, the type of restorative justice most often offered is the community conferencing model, in which the people involved in the conflict are brought together to help heal the damage. Compared to more traditional justice models, restorative justice has been found to be more effective at achieving standard judicial goals. Restorative justice may offer much-needed solutions to juvenile crime, however, public opinion based on media coverage of juvenile crime tends to support a more punitive view of punishment versus treatment. It is hoped that media depictions of juvenile crime will offer a more balanced view and the issues surrounding youth crime. References