Giving Back’ by ‘Paying Back’: Financial Restitution Through Community Payback Co-operative

Published 25/03/2020
Type Article
Author(s) Dave Nicholson
Corresponding Authors

‘Giving back’ is both a central tenet of restorative justice and a key element in desistance. In this historical review and think piece I argue that giving back financially – financial payback – is not only the oldest form of restorative justice but also a way of making a desistance-enabling restorative criminal justice system a reality today. But neither restorative justice nor desistance can ever be achieved if the offender is unable to make the financial payback required.  I argue that widening the scope of existing Community Payback arrangements to include unpaid work with co-operatives and values-based ‘purposeful’ employers would provide both a means of making financial payback, as well as a progression route into desistance-supporting paid employment. The monetary value of the offender’s unpaid work would be paid by the host employer as a charitable donation to victims’ or other appropriate charities to fulfil the community benefit required by Community Payback. On successful completion of the unpaid work, progression into paid work would then be made available to the offender. In this way the offender’s unpaid work effectively acts as a work trial as well as a Community Payback placement. This ‘mutual restitution’ would see the community, in the form of the host employer, enabling offenders to make financial pay back as well as providing access to the sort of desistance-enabling employment opportunities from which many for most of their lives have been excluded. Running such a scheme with cooperatives aligns with the co-operative sector’s concern for community, one of the key principles of the cooperative identity[1]. But it would work equally well with those public or private sector values-based ‘purposeful’ employers committed to creating long-term value through serving the needs of society[2]. Building on contemporary developments in the co-operative sector and private sector initiatives to embed purpose into the heart of business, I argue that existing Community Payback practice together with the recommendations of the 2008 Scottish Prisons Commission can all be combined to create a system of ‘mutual restitution’ providing a practical and realistic way of making a desistance-supporting restorative criminal justice system a reality through financial payback.