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What Is Restorative Justice and Is It Right For Nashville?

There is a growing consensus among Nashville civic leaders for the city to initiate a restorative justice program. Davidson County District Attorney General Glenn Funk has just come out in favor of such a program, joining Mayor Megan Barry and other officials who have previously expressed support. There is already a pilot program under development in Juvenile Court that is focusing on cases involving certain types of burglaries. But as with other proposed municipal initiatives, finding additional funding for the development and implementation of a full-scale program remains a problem.

How Restorative Justice Works

A recent article in The Tennessean explains what restorative justice is and discusses some of the benefits it provides to offenders, victims of crimes, and society at large.

Restorative justice is an early intervention process. It is especially appropriate in cases involving youthful offenders. In restorative justice, an offender and the victim of the crime are brought together by a mediator who facilitates the process. In an open conversation, the victim and offender discuss the crime from their perspectives. Victims thus have more time than they do in a sentencing hearing to express how the crime affected them and the harm they suffered. For an offender, having to personally meet the victim can be a sobering experience. Rather than listening to the victim's testimony in an impersonal courtroom, the offender comes face-to-face with the victim and is compelled to see him or her as a person, not just an anonymous target.

Restorative Justice Can Avoid the Need for Detention and Jail Time

A restorative justice outcome could include jail time, but one of its main purposes is to limit jail time and the expense it places on society. More often, restorative justice outcomes involve alternatives to jail such as community service and deferred adjudication. One of its major benefits is that, by design, it can avoid the need for early detention which can lead to repeat offenses and jail time down the road.

For a criminal defense attorney, restorative justice is one more tool that could be used to obtain an acceptable outcome for the client. It's not appropriate in every case, but in the right circumstances it can give a youthful offender the chance to get his or her life back on track.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.