Retributive Justice and Restorative Justice: What's the Difference?


Retributive Justice is what we have now. Restorative Justice is what we could have. You can look at the differences in this brochure that is from Changing Lenses by Howard Zehr. Copyright © 1990, 1995, 2005 by Herald Press, Scottdale, PA 15683. All rights reserved. Used by permission.  Family Nonviolence, Inc.:(508) 996-1100; and Friends Outreach, New Bedford Friends Meeting: (617) 501-6258.

Retributive Justice

Restorative Justice

blame-fixing central problem-solving central
focus on the past focus on the future
needs are secondary needs are primary

battle model: adversarial

dialogue normative
emphasizes differences searches for commonalities
imposition of pain considered normative restoration and reparation considered normative
one social injury added to another emphasis on repair of social injustices
harm by offender balanced by harm to offender harm by offender balance by making right
focus on offender; victim ignored victims' needs central
state and offender are key elements victim and offender are key elements
victims lack information information provided by victims
restitution rare restitution normal
victims' "truth" secondary victims given chance to "tell the truth"
victims' suffering ignored victims' suffering lamented and acknowledged
action from state to offender; offender passive offender given role in solution
state monopoly on response to wrong-doing victim/offender/community roles recognized
offender has no responsibility for resolution offender has responsibility in resolution
outcomes encourage offender irresponsibility responsible behavior encouraged
offender denounced harmful act denounced
offender's ties to community weakened offender's integration into community increased
offender seen in fragments, offense being central  offender viewed holistically
sense of balance through retribution  sense of balance through restitution
balance righted by lowering offender  balance righted by raising both victim and offender
justice as right rules  justice as right relationships
victim-offender relationships ignored  victim-offender relationships central
process alienates  process aims at reconciliation
response based on offender's past behavior  response based on consequences of offender's behavior
repentance and forgiveness discouraged  repentance and forgiveness encouraged
proxy professionals are the key actors  victim and offender central; professional help available
competitive, individualistic values encouraged  mutuality and cooperation encouraged
ignores social, economic and moral context of behavior

 total context  relevant

assumes win-lose outcomes makes possible win-win outcomes