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Restorative Justice with a British Accent

| December 3, 2010

In the United States, it is common to refer to prison as a “revolving door” in which offenders enter, leave, re-offend, and then enter again.  Conservative British MP Alan Duncan made a speech in February in which he discussed the same issue — except he colorfully compared prison to a “carousel.”  Either way, it is clear from Duncan’s speech that the Americans and the British are dealing with very similar criminal justice problems.  One of Duncan’s solutions is to embrace Restorative Justice.

The Restorative Justice concept encourages offenders to meet and be confronted by their victims.  It makes intuitive sense that many victims would benefit from Restorative Justice, but Duncan is making the interesting and important observation that offenders can also benefit.  He even cites research suggesting that Restorative Justice can reduce recidivsm by an average of 27%.

Duncan explains: “Properly monitored and prepared, [Restorative Justice] allows the offender to realise the direct and ripple effect of his crime and, in giving it a human context, brings the offender to a realisation that if he commits further crimes they will cause further human damage.  The hardened ex-offender who for the first time looks his elderly victim in the eye and sees her distress often finds it a challenge to remain hardened for long.”

No matter what idiom one chooses — revolving door or carousel — it is clear that the same problem exists both here and in the United Kingdom.  The same solution might exist too: a greater role for Restorative Justice. 

Read the speech here.

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VIBRANT P. REDDY is Senior Fellow for criminal justice issues at the Charles Koch Institute. Previously, Reddy was the Senior Policy Analyst for both Right on Crime and the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice. He has authored several reports on criminal justice policy and is a frequent speaker and media commentator on the topic. Reddy has worked as a research assistant at The Cato Institute, as a law clerk to the Honorable Gina M. Benavides of the Thirteenth Court of Appeals of Texas, and as an attorney in private practice, focusing on trial and appellate litigation. Reddy graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in Plan II Honors, Economics, and History, and he earned his law degree at the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas and of the State Bar’s Appellate Section and Criminal Justice Section.

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