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Defining Restorative Justice

These articles address the question “What is restorative justice? They do so by proposing definitions or principles that make up a restorative response to crime.

What is restorative justice?
from the article by Matt Semansky in Dal News: Restorative justice has become a major topic of discussion this week, with the news that several of the Dal Dentistry students who were the subject of mysogynistic posts online have elected to pursue a restorative justice process under the university’s Sexual Harassment Policy. So just what is “restorative justice”? “Restorative justice is an idea that says, at its core, justice has to be about repairing or addressing the harm caused to social relationships when wrongdoing happens,” says Jennifer Llewellyn, Viscount Bennett Professor of Law at Dalhousie and an international expert in restorative justice....
Restoring what? The practice, promise and perils of restorative justice in New Zealand
from the article by Chris Marshall: ...Restorative justice practice is informed or controlled by three core convictions or foundational assumptions. The first is an understanding of crime as injury more than infraction. Crime is not viewed simply as the breaking of the law, or the transgressing of some moral or spiritual code; it is the harming of actual persons, the infliction of real personal losses, the tearing of the web of relationships that interconnect us in society: the wounding, indeed, of our very humanity. Not all harms are crimes, of course, and not all crimes cause equal harm. But what fundamentally marks out crime as wrong is that it injures, or seriously threatens to injure, the persons involved and violates their relational integrity.
Kelly McGrath: Here's why restorative justice really works
from the article by Kelly McGrath in Tallahassee.com: ...All criminal acts, especially violent crime, involve much more than the breaking of a law. Criminal activity affects the emotional state of all parties. Restorative justice attempts to repair those injuries.
Social harm and social harmony
from chapter 3 of the unpublished PhD thesis by Sarah Henkeman: This thesis is not the first attempt to combine the notion of restorative justice with other concepts. In an article termed Transformative Justice: the transformation of restorative justice, Harris (2006) captures the restorative justice/transformative justice debate. Barak (2000) makes the case for integrative praxis in his article termed Repressive vs Restorative justice: a case for integrative praxis. From restorative justice literature, in general two conceptions of restorative justice processing can be discerned. The one is a modest conception based on individual (dispositional) theories of crime and the other is an expansive view which is closer to peacebuilding and has a further distinction. One distinction is based on situational theories of crime which hold that structural factors are responsible for crime. The other distinction is based on integrative theories of crime which hold that there is an interaction between individual and structural factors that produce crime and that structural factors should be taken into account during restorative justice processing. The view based on individual theories of crime is straightforward as most, if not all, criminal justice systems around the world process individual criminal cases by ‘responsibilising’ (Pavlich, 2005:10; Strang & Braithwaite, 2001:6) the offender. Social circumstances of the offender might be considered in mitigation of sentence, but it is not taken into account otherwise. When cases are referred for restorative justice processing from the criminal justice system, practitioners cannot change the criminal law definition, and they process cases on the basis of individual propensity. This resonates with a modest view of restorative justice which focuses on the intra- and interpersonal levels only.
The Whos down in Whoville and restorative justice
from the article by Andrerw Suderman: Next to biblical nativity stories, How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss is one of my favorite seasonal tales. We read it as a family every Christmas Eve. While we typically view this vintage Dr. Seuss yarn as a reminder that there is more to Christmas than its trappings, it offers something unexpected too. It shares an example of restorative justice at work.
Restorative justice: Evidence-based practice or practice in search of evidence
From the Justice Management Institute Blog: From time to time, we will get a question from our partners about the evidence behind restorative justice: Does research show that it works? Is it an evidence-based practice? I quietly groan a little when I get these questions – not because they are bad questions but because the answers are complex and elusive. In many ways, it feels like I am offering more questions than answers when I do respond. Nonetheless, I decided this week to take on the subject, because it is a growing movement in criminal justice (and juvenile justice) and it can be a promising complement to some of the evidence-based practices that have emerged from the research.
Restorative justice: What's old is new again
from the article by Matthew T. Mangino in the Canton Daily Ledger: ....One alternative gaining traction is Restorative Justice (RJ). RJ is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior. It is best accomplished when the parties meet face-to-face to establish a plan of accountability and reconciliation. A meaningful RJ effort can transform people, relationships and communities. RJ views criminal acts more comprehensively-rather than defining crime simply as law breaking; it recognizes that offenders harm victims, communities and even themselves.
Restorative justice, globalisation and the logic of empire
from the artcle by Chris Cunneen in Borders and Transnational Crime: At the beginning of this century, restorative justice had come to receive a relatively high degree of acceptance in many jurisdictions. By 2002 it found its way onto the United Nations (UN) agenda, when the Economic and Social Council adopted the Basic Principles on the Use of Restorative Justice Programs in Criminal Matters. Restorative justice increasingly appeared to be the answer to a range of crime control problems, ranging from local issues like juvenile offending to international crimes and human rights abuses in transitional societies. For problems as diverse as child misbehaviour at school and ethnic cleansing and genocide, restorative justice was seen to offer a viable strategy both for satisfying victim needs and for reintegrating offenders. From seemingly humble beginnings as a localized justice strategy to taking a place on the UN’s agenda, restorative justice appeared as an alternative to retributive justice.
Restoration is a metaphor
from Howard Zehr's entry on Restorative Justice Blog: In an earlier blog entry I discussed the importance of metaphor and promised to say more about how this applies to justice. Here, finally, are more thoughts on metaphors and justice. ....Our justice language is full of metaphors. Some, such as the “war on crime” or the adversarial system as a boxing match, are easy to identify. But others are much more subtle and unconscious. For example, we often treat justice as a commodity: justice is spoken of as “received” or “given.”
'Justice' can take different forms: Traditional punishment isn't always the best way
from the editorial in the Des Moines Register: ....Charleston accused McCarthy of paying only “lip service” to restorative justice. McCarthy insisted Charleston doesn’t even understand what that term means. “You need to get a book and look it up,” he said. That might not be a bad idea for many of us. What are they talking about? Howard Zehr wrote the widely cited, best-selling “The Little Book of Restorative Justice” for people “who have heard the term and are curious about what it implies.”
Center for Restorative Activism
from the "Principles" page of Scott Brown's website: Here are some basic principles that help to frame what restorative activism is about: The historical moment calls on us to identify and focus on root causes. I believe the historical moment boils down to a choice between continuation with the life-denying worldview based on separateness, and a life affirming worldview based on the direct experience of interrelatedness. The belief in separateness can be singled out as a root cause of the crises we face and this shows us what we are really up against.
In sentencing criminals, is Norway too soft? Or are we too harsh?
from the article by Liliana Segura in The Nation: ....“Western Europeans regard 10 or 12 years as an extremely long term, even for offenders sentenced in theory to life,” he said. Today, there are more than 41,000 people serving life without parole in the United States compared to fifty-nine in Australia, forty-one in England and thirty-seven in the Netherlands. That’s according to a study released this spring, which found that we are “in the minority of countries using several sentencing practices, such as life without parole, consecutive sentences, juvenile life without parole, juvenile transfer to adult courts, and successive prosecution of the same defendant by the state and federal government.”
A different justice: Why Anders Breivik only got 21 years for killing 77 people
from the article by Max Fisher on The Atlantic: Although Breivik will likely be in prison permanently -- his sentence can be extended -- 21 years really is the norm even for very violent crimes. The much-studied Norwegian system is built on something called restorative justice. Proponents of this system might argue that it emphasizes healing: for the victims, for the society, and, yes, for the criminal him or herself.
The nature of community: Restorative justice and permaculture
from the article by Jonathan McRay in PeaceBuilder: Humans are inextricably connected to the earth. We inhabit, breathe, drink, and eat this strange blue globe that is our only home. The oldest religious traditions recognized this scientific claim by weaving stories, almost myths-as-memory, which describe humans as creatures crafted from the dirt: adam and adama, human and humus, culture and cultivate. Indeed, the plurality of human cultures grows from natural biodiversity. And we are social animals, dependent for better and worse on lives beyond ourselves. Restorative justice agrees by stating that society is interconnected, which reframes crime as the cause and effect of damaged relationships and disconnection from a sense of belonging. If this is true, then the proper response to crime, to the violation of people and interpersonal relationships, is the obligation to make things as right as possible, which includes the rehabilitation of the offender.
Restorative justice: Sketching a new legal discourse
from the article by Frank D. Hill for the Institute for Law and the Humanities: [T]he aim of this paper is not merely an exploration of the practice of restorative justice, but rather an examination of the radical re-visioning of criminal justice specifically and legal discourse generally which restorative justice gestures toward. Restorative justice imagines, and seeks to bring about, a system of justice which is responsive to the vicissitudes and dynamism that characterize individual experiences of crime. In order to do this, it re-imagines what the priorities of a system of criminal justice should be by enacting an inversion of the priorities of traditional legal discourse.
RJC briefing on Ministry of Justice consultation: Getting it right for victims and witnesses
from the Restorative Justice Council website: On 30th January 2012 the Ministry of Justice published Getting it right for victims and witnesses as a consultation document. Alongside a wide range of proposals to reform both support services for victims and witnesses, and criminal injuries compensation, the Government’s desire to develop provision of restorative justice for victims of crime is clear.
More on the meme, restorative justice and social media
from Kris Miner's entry on Restorative Justice and Circles: Meme: Memes are contagious patterns of cultural information that are passed from mind to mind and that directly shape and generate key actions and mindsets of a social group. Memes include popular tunes, catch-phrases, clothing fashions, architectural styles, ways of doing things, and so on.
So, what's the punishment?
by Lynette Parker I have several RSS feeds related to restorative justice, prison reform, and criminal justice. Usually, the headlines speak of unsafe prison conditions and the need for governments to make real changes to criminal justice policy. The articles highlight the problems created by prison crowding that results from an over-reliance on incarceration and pre-trial detention. High levels of recidivism and the lack of rehabilitative programming for prisoners are decried.
Steps to Peace – Restorative Justice simplified by Thich Nhat Hanh
Kris Miner's entry on Restorative Justice and Circles: Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh outlines the three steps to peace as:
A relational vision of justice
from Jennifer Llewellyn's article for Restorative Justice Week 2011: As a relational theory of justice, RJ is rooted in a relational understanding of human beings and the world. It starts from the fundamental assumption that human beings are inherently relational. This is more than merely a description about the way in which we live or a claim about the benefits that relationships bring. Human beings do indeed live in relationships with one another, but, a relational theory claims that we could not do otherwise. We are, on this account, formed in and through relationship with others. Relationship is central to who we are and who we become. This is not to say that we are just the sum of our relationships or wholly determined by them. We still make choices for ourselves and are responsible for those choices. But a relational approach reveals the extent to which our choices are made possible by and realized with the help of others. Our choices also affect others.

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