Growing together: measuring collective empathy through restorative justice

As of 2017, California is spending over $70,000 to house each inmate every year in the country with the most prisoners per capita in the world (Legislative Analyst’s Office, 2017). In accordance with realignment policies, restorative justice programs have developed to meet the need of reducing the prison population in a cost-effective way. While recidivism rates have shown to be lower for many participants, simply having the offender out of jail is not the only measure of a successful rehabilitation program. Building upon the cornerstones of restorative practice, collective empathy was developed and utilized as a framework for an original survey instrument, the Collective Empathy Scale (CES). This project introduces the CES as a method to measure four domains of collective empathy: self-compassion, empathic concern, community connection, and perspective taking. The CES attempts to measure a change in behavior that promotes each of these domains. Collective empathy is an indicator for less harmful behaviors as there already exists a correlation between empathy and recidivism. Building collective empathy within communities could similarly reduce the harm imposed on one another. The literature shows strong supporting research behind measuring empathy, while conceptual frameworks of collectivism, humanism, and social ecology share a focus on community building. Various limitations were considered in the development and for future use. Methods for survey evaluation and validation are included to further the development of the instrument.