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A Short Comparison of Retributive Justice and Restorative Justice

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A Short Comparison of Retributive Justice and Restorative Justice essay

Retributive justice and restorative justice are two completely different ways of looking at the prison system and dealing with offenders. Both have their pros and cons about each other, but is there one form of justice that may be more effective to use in the United States prison systems? Here, we will define each form of justice, compare, and contrast them to determine which one may be more effective and should be instituted in prison systems across the U.S.

To start, retributive justice has a very clean-cut definition, as it is just a form of justice that focuses on punishment of the offender, rather than rehabilitation. This form of justice focuses more on the punishment and having wrong doers serve their time or learn their lesson. A phrase that goes along with this is, “the punishment fits the crime,” where murderers will often get life in prison, rather than try to be rehabilitated and so on. It is more so focused on just punishing the wrongdoer rather than trying to help them in any way or seeing them as someone who made a mistake.

Restorative justice, however, is meant to rehabilitate and get the offender back into society while focusing on the victims of the crime. In this version of justice, the offender tries to repay or make amends to the victim or society in some way. There are a couple of ways offenders can do this, but two of the most common are through victim-oriented reparation and community-oriented reparation. According to the text:

“In victim-oriented reparation, offenders returned to the rightful owner either what has been taken away or its equivalent, usually in money or service. In community-oriented reparation, offenders either pay a fine or render community service the community that’s functions as a substitute victim” (2018, pg. 24, Siegel).

An example of this would be someone who commits car theft down an entire block. He or she would return what they stole to each of the cars’ owners and, through doing that, learn that their actions were wrong and unjust.

Looking at both restorative and retributive justice, it seems that they both have a positive approach, but there is a growing trend of restorative justice programs. This is because the, “restorative justice processes pay attention not only to the harm inflicted on the victims of a crime, but also to the ways the crime has harmed the offender and the community” (2018, pg. 117, Seigel) With restorative justice, everyone begins to feel included in what’s going on – whether it’s the offender being rehabilitated, the victim healing, or the community being restored. This cannot be said for retributive justice, as there is no focus on the victim of the crime. The focus is solely on the offender and the offender’s punishment – serving his or her time for the crime they’ve committed.

When it comes to which is the most effective, it seems that restorative justice covers all the areas needed. It allows the community to heal, the victim to be repaid, and the offender to learn the error of his or her ways. The same cannot be said for retributive justice, as the only focus there is punishment. With the popularity of restorative justice on the rise, most prison systems in the United States may institute a whole new method of rehabilitation.

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A Short Comparison of Retributive Justice and Restorative Justice. (2018, November 15). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from
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