This page is archived material and is no longer updated. It may contain outdated information and broken links. The material
presented on these pages is the product of five regional symposia held on restorative justice between June 1997 and January
Criminal restitution is a process by which offenders are held accountable for the financial losses they have caused to the
victims of their crimes. The restitution payment is the sum of money paid by the offender to the victim to balance this monetary
Without restitution, a victim may be financially devastated by the crime committed against them. A victim's financial losses
can also contribute to their experience of trauma and frustration with the criminal and juvenile justice systems. On the other
hand, receiving a restitution payment can make a victim feel that the justice system is working on their behalf to ensure
they are justly compensated for their losses. Moreover, restitution, as a part of the sentence or a condition of community
supervision, is an essential aspect of holding offenders accountable for their crimes.
Restitution is considered to be a "core" victim right which is crucial to help victims reconstruct their lives in the aftermath
of a crime. In recent years, restitution has been made mandatory for persons convicted of federal crimes. Additionally, 29
states require a court to order restitution to the victim or to state on the record the reasons for failing to do so (1996 Victims' Rights Sourcebook, National Victim Center).
The goals of restitution are to:
- Provide remuneration to victims who suffer financial losses as a result of crime. Such losses may include out-of-pocket expenses
for medical or mental health treatment, property loss or damage, sexual assault examinations, HIV testing, participation in
justice processes, and funeral costs.
- Hold offenders accountable for their actions, specifically those that cause financial harm to victims.
Appropriate restitution orders are based on information provided by victims to the court about out-of-pocket losses and information
about offenders' financial status and earning capacity. Victim input is usually gathered through either victim impact statements
or pre-sentence investigations. Victims often need assistance to prepare complete, accurate documentation of their immediate
and projected financial losses resulting from the crime. Such assistance can be provided by victim advocates, prosecution
staff, or probation/parole personnel. Justice agencies also need to conduct comprehensive assessments of convicted offenders'
assets and ability to pay, both immediate and long-term.
The ordering, collecting, and disbursing of restitution require strong collaborative efforts among many justice agencies.
Justice officials need to practice "due diligence" in seeking court- or parole-ordered restitution payments from offenders.
Records of restitution judgements should be incorporated into offenders' case files at the court, probation, incarceration/detention,
and parole stages of the criminal and juvenile justice processes. Victims should be advised of the types of remedies the system
can pursue when offenders fail to comply with restitution orders, which include, but are not limited to, converting restitution
orders to civil judgements, extending the terms of probation/parole until restitution is paid, asset forfeiture, garnishment
or attachment, income withholding orders, revocation of the offender's driver's license, and revocation of probation/parole,
in some cases.
A study involving 6,336 formal juvenile probation cases in Utah, conducted by the National Center for Juvenile Justice, found
the use of restitution associated with significant reductions in recidivism among certain juvenile offenders. Juveniles agreeing
to pay restitution as an informal disposition, as well as those formally ordered to pay restitution, returned to court significantly
less often than juveniles who did not pay restitution (OJJDP, 1992).
Other studies have identified restitution as one of the most significant factors related to victim satisfaction with the criminal
justice process (American Bar Association, Improving Enforcement of Court-Ordered Restitution, 1989).
Date Created: December 4, 2007