The Idea

Parallel Justice redefines justice for victims of crime.

The concept of Parallel Justice is based on principles which create a new framework for responding to crime—two separate, parallel paths to justice–one for victims and one for offenders.

For every reported crime, our society responds by trying to apprehend, prosecute, sanction and eventually reintegrate offenders back into productive communal life. Following the Parallel Justice framework, there would always be a separate set of responses for victims of the crime. Parallel Justice responses seek to restore victims’ safety, help them recover from the trauma of the crime, and regain a sense of control over their lives.

These responses would not depend on whether the offender is ever identified or convicted. In all cases, the harm experienced by victims of crime would be acknowledged and addressed separately and apart from the criminal justice process. While victims’ legal rights within the criminal justice process should be enforced, society’s obligation to provide justice to victims extends beyond the criminal justice process.

This new vision of justice challenges criminal justice agencies–police, prosecutors, courts, and corrections–to respond more effectively to victims, and make victims’ safety and the prevention of repeat victimization, a higher priority. Every social service and healthcare agency can also reorient its core business practices to play a greater role in helping victims rebuild their lives. In fact, every sector of our civil society—businesses, employers, schools, faith-based institutions, and neighbors–can make important contributions to Parallel Justice.

Communities across the country have embraced the concept of Parallel Justice. For example, in California, the Redlands police chief launched a public awareness campaign, and created a multi-agency task force to realign their core values and practices to Parallel Justice principles. In New York, several county probation departments have begun to infuse Parallel Justice principles into their work. In Vermont, corrections officials created the initial momentum, and now the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services, the Burlington Police Department, and the Burlington Community and Economic Development Office jointly administer their Parallel Justice effort.

For a fuller explanation of Parallel Justice, and numerous examples of how government and community-based agencies, social service and healthcare providers, businesses and neighbors can do more to help victims rebuild their lives, see PARALLEL JUSTICE FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME by Susan Herman.