Restorative Justice from Prosecutors’ Perspective

By Bruce A. Green & Lara Bazelon
June 1, 2020

Restorative justice processes have been promoted as an alternative to criminal adjudication for many years outside the United States and, in recent years, in the United States as well. In the United States, restorative justice processes are used in some jurisdictions in cases involving juvenile offenders or low-level, nonviolent offenses by adults, but they have rarely been used in cases of adult felony offenders charged with serious violent crimes. Whether restorative justice processes will be used more broadly depends largely on whether prosecutors become receptive to their use. A handful of newly elected “progressive prosecutors” have expressed interest in applying restorative justice processes in these and other kinds of felony cases involving adult defendants. But conventional prosecutors generally remain uninterested in or hostile to restorative justice, even though most accept problem-solving courts and other alternatives to prosecution and incarceration. This Article explores why mainstream U.S. prosecutors are disposed against restorative justice and suggests how their concerns might best be addressed by restorative justice proponents.