Community Justice Essay

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Community justice is the label given to restorative social and criminal justice–based efforts to respond to the harm that problems such as bias, prejudice, and criminality cause in a community. Consistent with peacemaking and progressive sociological and criminological approaches, this focus leads to a concentration on education, prevention, and interdiction efforts through the prism of consequences for all members of the public. The simple goal of community justice is to make social life better for everyone in the community (which can be defined as a city, neighborhood, district, or policing jurisdiction) through social change.

The core components of a community justice approach include a focus on change and rehabilitation through advocacy and efforts to shape local and national policy, restitution to victims and communities when applicable, education and programming, efforts to support strong families and individuals, respect for diversity and inclusion, and collaborative relationships between various stakeholders in the area. Decision making is structured to be democratic and shared among the identified stakeholders and activists. Key issues, strategies, and organizational goals for those involved in community justice are varied and depend upon the individual members and the group (e.g., Homelessness Outreach and Prevention Projects, the Anti-Bias Project, Take Back the Night).

Community justice efforts are often created and led by individuals concerned with local civil and civic rights at the national level (e.g., the National Center for Community Justice, Southern Poverty Law Center, Anti-Defamation League) and by neighborhood and grassroots local organizations. These activists are concerned with giving members of the community who have been disenfranchised a voice in the nature of their communities, as well as with establishing the priorities of law enforcement and crime prevention in their communities. Community justice efforts have historically been advocated by individuals and organizations of faith and conscience.

Community justice brings the justice system, advocates, and the community together in partnership efforts to solve problems, reduce crime, and build public confidence in the agencies of the criminal justice system, most notably in the area of policing, as well as advance the strength of the community through bonds of involvement and activism. Community advancement and solidarity formation through social and civic engagement are essential ingredients to community justice. For example, when offenders are given a community-based penalty, the court can order that the offender returns to court on a regular basis for analysis, treatment, and counseling. The intention is to increase oversight by the judge, magistrates, probation officers, and appointed others to increase the responsibility of offenders and encourage them to comply with the conditions of their sentences. This oversight is meant to cause a change in offenders in which they realize the harm that they have caused the community. It also gives the court the opportunity to support the offenders as they face challenges and adapt to the conditions of their sentences. Several different efforts have grown out of these attempts to change the punitive nature of the criminal justice system, for example, community-centered courts that provide a sense of place to legal proceedings, victim– offender forms of mediation, meaningful offender counseling that examines the full sense of well-being and social location, as well as community-oriented policing models where officers are involved members of the neighborhoods they patrol.


  1. Harris, M. K. (2004). An expansive, transformative view of restorative justice. Contemporary Justice Review, 7, 117–141.
  2. Jesilow, P., & Parsons, D. (2000). Community policing as peacemaking. Policing & Society, 10, 163–183.
  3. Lanni, A. (2005). The future of community justice. Harvard
  4. Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, 40, 359–405. Rodriguez, N. (2007). Restorative justice at work: Examining the impact of restorative justice resolutions on juvenile recidivism. Crime & Delinquency, 53, 355–379.
  5. Wozniak, J. F. (2002). Toward a theoretical model of peacemaking criminology: An essay in honor of Richard Quinney. Crime & Delinquency, 48, 204–231.

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