In civil law cases, courts routinely require people to make restitution to those they have accidentally, carelessly, or negligently damaged. In the criminal law, the practice of requiring offenders to make restitution - to restore their victims to the condition they enjoyed before the offense - is both less common and more controversial. Victims of crime typically have a right to file civil suits against those who have harmed them, but the state, acting through the criminal law, usually aims to punish criminals, not to exact restitution from them. Whether restitution ought to be part of the criminal remedy, however, or even to replace punishment altogether, is now the subject of a lively debate among legal philosophers.
Copyright © 1999 Garland Publishing. This article first appeared in The Philosophy of Law: An Encyclopedia.
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Dagger, Richard. "Restitutionary Rationale." In The Philosophy of Law: An Encyclopedia, edited by Christopher Berry Gray, 747-49. Vol. 2. New York: Garland Publishing, 1999.