Accountability, What Does It Really Mean?

“Accountability” as a term to describe restorative justice.  The idea/definition of accountability is counter to how we think/talk about justice.

Accountability: required to explain actions or decisions to someone.

Wikipedia: It is frequently described as an account-giving relationship between individuals, e.g. “A is accountable to B when A is obliged to inform B about A’s (past or future) actions and decisions, to justify them, and to suffer punishment in the case of eventual misconduct”.

The idea conveyed by this term is that someone is holding another person accountable.  When in fact restorative systems allow the author to hold themselves accountable or we (a whole community that includes the author) are holding everyone (ourselves) accountable (mutual accountability).  RJ is grounded in the philosophy that responsibility is met with action.  If there is responsibility and no action there is no justice.  Yet, when the author, who is responsible for the harm takes action to repair the harm… that is justice.  It needs no authority, punishment, or even forgiveness…

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The Case That Got Me Hooked On Restorative Justice

There were 10 of us in a large room, sitting in a ring of comfortable chairs encircling a large table. Late afternoon sunlight caught the red hair and freckles of a 15-year-old student (we’ll call her Sarah) as she tilted her head back slightly to keep tears from escaping.

Her parents, our school principal, several students and her boyfriend surrounded me, a teacher, as I began to share how I was affected by Sarah’s actions over the weekend.

I began, “Well, I was the one driving the van from the campsite to the grocery store when Sarah and her friend stole the bottle of vodka…

(the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange is a leading forum for issues of youth justice)… Continue reading here

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