1. It makes victims unsafe and displaces their power/disrespects their needs.
Actually, in its truest form, restorative justice honors and respects the needs of the victim before anything else. This differs from the punitive system in that victims are in form and practice bystanders once the crime or conflict occurs. This is currently the #1 misconception in across-the-board conversations and awareness-building as well as the #1 resistance when bills are being drafted for possible law.
2. It is soft on offenders.
Police Officer Greg Ruprecht of Longmont, CO, puts it best: restorative justice has more “teeth” than punitive justice because it requires facing one’s harm and working with those affected to make it right--admitting to one’s wrongdoing, and at times face to face with the victim--is no small task compared to being hauled off, isolated and alone, for an expensive indeterminate jail or prison term.
3. It requires forgiveness.
Restorative justice is not a means to an end and recognizes that each situation and individual is unique and every crime and conflict is unique. In its truest form, restorative justice is not forcing anyone to do or feel anything, but rather creating the conditions for the possibility of healing and forgiveness while providing an honest platform for truth and for voicing the cause and affect of harm.
4. It requires everyone involved in the harm to want to do it in order for it to work.
Restorative justice processes can work even when some or many affected are not able and/or willing to participate. Stakeholders can include victim/s, offender/s, community representative/s, family, resource officers or law enforcement representatives, etc. There is also the possibility that “surrogate” processes will occur where people will stand in to represent those unable or unwilling to be present.
5. It is too expensive and time-intensive to implement.
While statistics are still being built in a way as to measure the cost-savings of general programs, it is clear that massive amounts of judicial processing time are being saved, and thus the costs related to that--not to mention the savings of incarceration ranging from 40K to over 100K per year depending on the case. In Colorado, a new law recently passed is self funding, using a $10 RJ surcharge per infraction (all cases excepting traffic violations) for the Restorative Justice Pilot Project. The fact is that restorative justice saves time and money even as it is difficult to put an exact dollar amount on just how much.
6. It is basically mediation.
Although it shares a similar purpose of providing conditions for understanding and resolution of harm, restorative justice is not mediation in that it strives to involve a wider circle where appropriate. When harm happens, mediation typically involves only those very directly involved. Restorative justice has the capacity to, at the appropriate stages, open up the process to include community and family representatives and officials from various systems involved in law enforcement and otherwise. Restorative justice understands that we all have an obligation when crime and harm occur--not just those immediately involved, and aims to create a predictable web of resources and a system that can be tapped into when and if harm does occur, while also working upstream of conflict to provide skills in areas such as NVC (nonviolent communication), authentic listening, and other related areas.
7. It is attempting to and assumes it can make things as they were as if no harm had ever occurred.
This is a very important point that came up today in class. Restorative justice does not assume or attempt that it can “restore” things to a place as if no harm had ever occurred. This would be a violation of the victim and does not validate the wrongness of the harm done, which is a core need for victims. What it is creating conditions for is a restoration of balance, when harm and crime throw off the balance of individuals, families, communities. It is attempting to support meeting the needs of those willing to participate and in no way assumes it can restore the past pre-harm.