We keep seeing things in the news about something called “restorative justice.” The theory of restorative justice is that, instead of focusing on the behavior of the offender, it focuses on the effect of the offender’s behavior. I like to call it, “no harm, no foul.” This is a brand of discipline that has become quite popular in schools.

Let me explain: Suppose we have a person that is caught stealing $500. Under traditional systems, the offender would be punished with some sort of punitive measure like probation or prison. Critics of this system point to recidivism rates and rightly point out that the punishment is obviously not enough to deter repeat offenses. In these cases, the victim is out $500, the offender is not rehabilitated, and the public is out the cost of investigating the crime, conducting a trial, and administering the punishment.

Proponents of restorative justice propose to make the offender and victim sit down to discuss the issue, the offense, and why that offense is hurtful. Then the victim is reimbursed for any loss, and since there is now restitution, that’s essentially the end of it.

Since many people have insurance, the proponents of restorative justice claim that the victim has been made whole, so all they have to do is explain to the offender why his behavior was wrong, and all is well.

This is codswallop. The victim hasn’t been made whole. The fact that he, and the rest of society, must maintain insurance against the poor behavior of offenders makes all of society into the victim. This entire theory of justice was born out of the “broken window” fallacy.

The broken window fallacy was first expressed by the 19th-century French economist Frederic Bastiat.

In Bastiat’s tale, a boy breaks a window. The townspeople looking on decide that the boy has actually done the community a service because his father will have to pay the town’s glazier to replace the broken pane. The glazier will then spend the extra money on something else, jump-starting the local economy. The onlookers come to believe that breaking windows stimulates the economy. Of course that is incorrect, because even though the owner of the broken window is now whole, the entire community is now poorer by the value of the window.

This particular type of discipline, if one were to call it that, has been popular in education for some time now. Schools are out of control as a result. Student tells a teacher to Fu@k off? He gets a stern talking to, and a time out. Two students get in a fistfight in the classroom? Again, time out and a lecture on why fighting is wrong.

As a result, there is no real deterrent effect on bad behavior. The offenders are operating in a nearly risk free environment: If they don’t get caught, they keep their ill gotten profits. If they DO get caught, they endure a brief lecture on why their behavior harmed others, then are free to try again. The schools are out of control with fights, drugs, weapons, and theft. We teachers are by state law asked if we feel safe on campus. The answer is, no I do not.

This is insanity, and can have only one result: the collapse of society.

THAT is what the people advocating restorative justice are missing: They do not recognize that some people simply don’t care about hurting others. They are projecting their own feelings of loving humanity onto criminals who simply view other humans as things to be exploited.

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1 Comment

jwl · June 14, 2020 at 4:06 pm

For a variety of reasons I won't go into, this really hits home.

Here's my thought for restorative justice. Break a window? Pay back the homeowner the insurance deductible. Pay the insurance company for the time their adjuster had to spend coming out and checking on it. Pay to the ins. co what they paid to the homeowner. Pay the police for the time they had to spend on the case. Pay back the courts and prison system for the time they spent having to prosecute, convict and house the criminal. And then, pay the homeowner an equivalent hourly rate to their day job, for the time they had to spend dealing with said broken window. (And the criminal'd better pray it's not a high-earning profession.)

That's getting closer to restoration. It won't eliminate the feeling of insult and violation the homeowner has, or the loss of lifespan spent dealing with a broken window that could have been better spent, but at least it would provide a cost accounting.

Of course, this would land said criminal in debt for a long time. But that was their choice to begin with.

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