Getting ‘Paid Back’
By Patrick Winn
Hiring and legal changes are accepting ex-offenders back into the workforce. Developing business practices intersect with Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18:21. Thus, we forgive 70 times seven times. 
But while second, third and 77th chances are expected by and for Christians, forgiveness involves atonement, too. 
A recent Chicago Tribune feature had a sub-headline that said, “Employers more open to hiring people with criminal backgrounds.” Pardon the skepticism, but let’s see if the same headline, article and outlook occur when the economy tanks again. 
A review of recent articles marking the 10th anniversary of the great recession yields no informative treatment, making it obvious that the rules of supply and demand govern the availability of jobs and employees as well as the consumer economy itself.
Playing the currently vibrant economic hand we’re dealt has resulted in released criminals now being licensed to sell real estate, become barbers and credentialed as counselors. Good. Now they can make a living to pay back their victims. 
But how well do we ensure that criminals pay back their victims as they atone for the crimes, not just by doing the time, but also by completely compensating their victims? “Restorative justice” gets tossed around like an ad for a magic elixir. But proper application requires active participation by the victim and the offender. 
Crime is ugly, and the financial effect on victims and their families must be met in part by criminals actively participating in victims’ recovery. 
Our jobs and justice systems have opened opportunities for those who have genuinely reformed — and for those who want to play the system. So ask:
1 When the economy retracts, will employers keep the best-qualified, most productive and experienced employees, even if it means purging their ranks of those who need work to repay society or a victim? 
2 What happens to the victims in a declining economy? Will they become re-victimized when no longer supported by the wages of laid-off offenders?
3 What system of compensation for the victim of domestic violence will address the fear of leaving the house and the ensuing inability to hold a traditional job?
4 How can employers work with the justice system and crime victims to ensure economic protection for families recovering from domestic abuse?
This is not an analysis of the likelihood that Bernie Madoff will repay hundreds of millions of dollars to individuals and families. Rather, this is a plea to pay attention to victims of crimes, especially crimes of domestic violence. 
As we urge and expect participation in the healing and atonement process, restitution needs to be a factor. A significant factor. A factor that makes a difference to both the criminal and the victim. 
Various state laws require proceeds from a high-profile criminal’s book go to the victim. Similar atonement structures must be devised for the common criminals among us.