Restorative justice: How a new Washtenaw County program empowers crime survivors

A new program launched Thursday allows Washtenaw County crime survivors the option to pursue restorative justice.

Restorative justice is an alternative to the traditional criminal justice system that allows crime survivors to have a say in the type of punishment an offender will receive. It includes collaboration between the offender and victim to make amends. 

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It also involves an offender acknowledging and taking responsibility for the harm they have done. There are several different methods used to make this happen.

When given the chance to participate in restorative justice, victims often choose to in order to seek restitution, oversee punishment, get answers, or share their grief. It is commonly used for property crimes where the victim may just want to get what was taken back. Also, restorative justice involves community support that the traditional criminal justice system tends to lack.

In Washtenaw County, if a crime survivor chooses restorative justice, they will work with a trained facilitator to come up with a solution.

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If restorative justice is used, the prosecutor's office will hold charges. If the victim and offender agree to a plan where amends can be made, the plan is followed, and there are no additional crimes committed in 18 months, the charges will be dismissed.

This option will not be allowed for cases involving crimes that pose a public safety risk, such as gun violence, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or crimes against children.