Reimagining Restitution: New Approaches to Support Youth and Communities

Photo of a youth sitting/kneeling in front of a corner laundromat

When it comes to youth restitution, no one wins. Juvenile courts across the country order young people to pay restitution when they are too young to work, still in school, and often in communities where resources are scarce. Youth who can’t pay restitution may be prevented from accessing diversion programs, forced to stay on probation longer, and even locked up for not paying. Family stress, long-term credit damage, and racial disparities resulting from restitution also make it harder for these youth to bounce back. Meanwhile, victims don’t get paid. Communities become less safe. And restorative justice is nowhere in sight. Our report outlines the history of restitution; surveys youth restitution laws in all 56 states and territories; draws on research across fields to outline the harmful impact of restitution on youth, victims, and communities; and proposes key considerations for reimagining restitution.

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About the Expert

Jessica Feierman oversees Juvenile Law Center’s projects and programs. Feierman currently leads a national effort to end fines and fees in the juvenile justice system and is engaged in litigation aimed at eliminating solitary confinement and other abusive practices in juvenile facilities.

Nadia Mozaffar is a Senior Attorney at Juvenile Law Center. Her work focuses on advancing educational rights and opportunities for children in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, economic justice issues, and protecting the rights of young people in the adult justice system.

Lindsey E. Smith works in partnership with advocates across the country to fight poverty punishments imposed on young people and families as part of the national Debt Free Justice campaign. Since joining Juvenile Law Center in 2020, she has written appellate briefs, developed and conducted trainings for in-court advocacy, and co-authored the recent report Reimagining Restitution: New Approaches to Support Youth and Communities.

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