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15 Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law Policy 209 (2008)
©2008. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, GEORGETOWN JOURNAL ON POVERTY LAW & POLICY.


U.S. welfare programs have traditionally come with strings attached: recipients must work for their benefits. I argue that there is a more practical and less morally repugnant way to marry work and welfare if proponents of work as well as their opponents would be willing to give up the unrealistic expectations they have placed on state-run public assistance programs, and define a clear and limited relationship between work and need for economically vulnerable people. Just as it has offered an alternative to both the pure retributivist and rehabilitation models in the area of criminal corrections, the principles and practices of the restorative justice movement offer a better chance to re-shape the relationship between recipient and the community in work programs in a realistic way. Restorative justice can bring together appropriately confined standards of social morality about work with realistic assessments of the complex lives of the vulnerable poor and more useful public interventions in the crises by which these lives are shaped.