Reimagining Restitution: New Approaches to Support Youth and Communities

Courts began ordering youth restitution in the 1960s as a less restrictive sanction than probation or incarceration for mostly white youth. Since then, restitution has been linked to higher recidivism rates and heightened racial and economic disparities in the juvenile justice system. This report provides an overview of the historical and current landscape of restitution imposed on youth, the impact of restitution on youth, victims and communities, and provides recommendations for how jurisdictions can reimagine restitution.

You can read the full report here.  

Key Findings:

  • Eleven states mandate that judges impose restriction orders; thirty-five states permit the imposition of restitution on parents for the acts of their children. 
  • Thirty-three states do not require any consideration of a youth’s ability to pay before imposing restitution.
  • Victim compensation funds only pay for limited types of harm from a narrow range of offenses.
  • Consequences for nonpayment can include arrest and incarceration, extended probation, civil judgements and private collections, and prevention of sealing or expungement of juvenile records


  • Implement alternatives to restitution that prevent and limit justice system involvement
  • Responses to nonpayment should not rely on financial sanctions
  • Expand compensation victim compensation funds 
  • Pilot programs for alternative interventions that restore community trust, repair harm, and improve relationships
  • Implement alternatives that are fair, developmentally appropriate, and culturally responsive
Juvenile Law Center, Juvenile Justice Research and Reform Lab, and Community Advocacy Lab