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Restitution Programs: Problems and Solutions

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 50 Issue: 4 Dated: (July 1988) Pages: 165-167
M Courlander
Date Published
3 pages
Critics have argued that restitution programs are not punitive, do not deter, and promote undesired victim-offender contact; while advocates counter that some punishment and deterrence is accomplished, that restitution is rehabilitative, and that victim-offender contact need not occur.
These potential costs and benefits aside, restitution programs, especially those involving juveniles, have many impediments to implementation and operation. Not all crimes can be compensated: while offenses such as vandalism and burglary lend themselves to financial restitutions; others, such as assault, driving under the influence, or arson, do not. While some programs have used restitution to the community for the latter types of crime, the relief afforded a victim by community service programs is remote. Further, restitution programs usually exclude serious offenders, offenses involving large dollar costs usually make restitution impossible, and finding employment for offenders so they can make restitution is difficult. Special problems are encountered by juveniles who must attend school, lack transportation, and have low earning capabilities. Further, employers may be reluctant to hire minors, and rehabilitative and punitive goals may be circumvented if parents pay restitution. Despite these problems, many can be overcome, and even when solutions cannot be found, an awareness of difficulties can alleviate frustration and bolster staff morale.