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Limitations to Restorative Justice

Are there cases or situations in which restorative justice cannot be used, or should be used only with great care?

Reggio, Federico. Accepted or Acceptable Justice? The Problem of Rational Control in Restorative Justice Practices
Focusing mostly on the program of victim-offender mediation, Reggio addresses the question of whether restorative justice can be considered a morally legitimate method of justice independent of whether or not it is effective at producing particular results. He considers the implications of consensus and dialogue in the results that are achieved and points out several potential pitfalls of restorative justice before affirming what he believes must be the ethical baseline of restorative justice: "It is not enough to reach accepted solutions, but acceptable ones!"
Restorative Justice: Where are we now and where are we going? Getting real.
With the March 3 release of One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections in the wake of our current economic woes, many of those who work in our community's trenches are relishing the bittersweet moment as we utter, “I told you so”. Thirty years of struggling to control the impacts of rapid social migration, challenges to family structures, and the media's overriding influence, our nation has supported increasingly invasive punishments or wildly permissive privileges and excuses. And it should come as no surprise that the punishments have been disproportionately visited upon our most challenged populations.
Restorative Justice: Where are we now and where are we going? Getting real.
from Christa Pierpont's article reprinted with permission from Restorative and Criminal Justice News and the Association for Conflict Resolution, With the March 3 release of One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections in the wake of our current economic woes, many of those who work in our community's trenches are relishing the bittersweet moment as we utter, “I told you so”. Thirty years of struggling to control the impacts of rapid social migration, challenges to family structures, and the media's overriding influence, our nation has supported increasingly invasive punishments or wildly permissive privileges and excuses. And it should come as no surprise that the punishments have been disproportionately visited upon our most challenged populations. As we look at the potential inherent in restorative justice to bring people to their senses in actively responsible ways—will this be done while also taking the time to address the structural harms we've incurred through unprecedented levels of social exclusion? Social exclusions that begin at pre-school, follow up through failure to graduate from school with marketable skills, into our courts and prisons, then aggravated by the continual lack of support for re-entry strategies that bring people back into the community prepared to support themselves and others in meaningful ways. While across town in an up-scale neighborhood another person undermines their colleagues' ability to support themselves and their family but is not held to account because they can afford to get away with it. Our current investment in justice leaves many of us cynical and frustrated. We are weary of adding new layers of unfunded mandates and increasing penalties to increase our neighbor's chances of having their daily lives better protected. A recent statement at our state's General Assembly session brought waves of self-conscious laughter when one representative commented that they were not aware that there were any misdemeanors left but they were all now classified as felonies.
Restorative justice and coercion
by Lynette Parker: Recently, I had a brief Twitter conversation with HMP_Chaplain about restorative justice and coercion. HMP_Chaplain commented on a statement by a Sycamore Tree Project facilitator in England and Wales that “if they make RJ compulsory she will pull out. I responded in a couple of Tweets: “Can understand...voluntariness is essential in RJ. Coercion can stand in the way of dialogue but doesn’t have to.” “Also RJ is more than a process its a way of thinking that can inform all interactions with offenders.”
Restorative justice and large organizations as victims
from the entry on Mediation Services -- Thinking Out Loud: One of the ongoing challenges we face here at Mediation Services is how to meaningfully involve corporations and large businesses in the restorative justice process. The process is relatively clear when there is an offender and a victim – or even when there are multiple victims and/or offenders. Individuals have needs and interests and a mediator works to bring people together for meaningful and fruitful exchange. Of course, every situation is unique and demands an “out of the box” thinking in order to make any process effective for the participants. But when the “victim” is a large corporation, there are at least two unique challenges for a mediator to address:
Restorative justice and transformative justice: Definitions and debates
from the entry by Candace Smith in Sociology Lens: When it comes to defining RJ, it seems as if the only consensus is that there is no consistent definition. In an attempt to broadly define the concept, Braithwaite writes that “restorative justice is a process where all the stakeholders affected by an injustice have an opportunity to discuss how they have been affected by the injustice and to decide what should be done to repair the harm.” That is, since crime hurts, it should also have a chance to heal.
Restorative justice for making plea bargains
from the article by Lorenn Walker on Restorative justice & other public health approaches for healing ....Putting aside any “forgiveness controversy,” Tullis’s article made an important contribution by describing how restorative justice can be used at the plea agreement stage of a murder case, by “vividly tell[ing] the story from the perspectives of the different parties that took part in the process” as pointed out by Hadar Aviram, law professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law in San Francisco.
Restorative justice in domestic violence cases is justice denied
from the article by Jill Filipovic in the Guardian: Restorative justice is often a very good way to deal with crime, and it's a method that any criminal justice system could benefit from using. But it's not appropriate in every case – and it's especially troubling to see it used in domestic violence cases. Thanks to a long feature in last weekend's New York Times Magazine, the concept of restorative justice is getting some much-needed attention. The practise is centered on the idea that justice should involve restoration and healing, instead of simply punishment.
Restorative justice may not work for all young offenders
from the commentary by Pamela Snow on The Conversation: Educating young offenders about the consequences of their crimes is a key way to ensure they don’t re-offend. But bringing them face to face with their victims may not always be the right way to go. Young offenders often suffer long-term abuse or neglect. They frequently fail to achieve academically, and have few, if any marketable employment skills. They face elevated risks of mental health problems and early and problematic substance abuse.
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.
Review: Child victims and restorative justice: A needs-rights model
from the article by Bill Lyons in Law & Politics Review: ....Combining the right to participate from the Convention on the Rights of the Child with an empirical analysis of a child's need to regain control, participation emerges as a critically important need and right for at least three reasons. First, for immediate instrumental reasons, participation is both an immediate coping mechanism and is expected to improve criminal justice outcomes. Second, for longer term developmental reasons, meaningful participation in experiential learning opportunities is a developmental step toward empowering young adults to master the problem solving skills necessary to make democracy both possible and desirable.
Review: Crime, Punishment, and Restorative Justice: From the Margins to the Mainstream.
by Eric Assur This is a unique and thought-provoking book from cover to cover. It is not a review of the brief history of restorative justice (RJ). Rather, it is a projection of just where RJ can take the discipline of criminal justice administration and practice. The author, not your usual academic, dissuades the reader from even using the word paradigm in discussing his ideas. He proposes and supports an integration of contemporary criminal justice approaches with restorative justice elements.
Review: Why Punishment? How Much?
Why Punishment? How Much? Editor Michael Tonry, Oxford University Press, New York, 2011 publication ,, Hardcover 443 pages reviewed by Eric Assur Those interested in restorative justice (RJ) will often only explore the world of the contemporary justice scene through literature which largely reflects on the application of RJ in all of its flavors over the past two or three decades. This punishment collection with a catchy title, edited by a Univ. of Minnesota law professor, looks at the bigger picture with RJ providing one slice of the larger discussion.
Russell, Susan S. Using Restorative Justice in Family Violence Situations
Russell begins by noting the significance of certain terms and concepts in restorative justice paradigms: "repairing the harm"; "putting things right"; "negotiation"; "reconciliation"; "forgiveness"; and more. Addressing each term or concept, she contends that none of these terms are appropriate or safe when dealing with domestic violence victims. She further suggests that they are not appropriate or safe when dealing with victims in general.
Simmons, Ric. Private Criminal Justice
Part I of the Article describes the failures of the public criminal justice system and show how many of these failures are due to the public monopoly on the provision of criminal justice services. Part II chronicles the privatization of law enforcement, examining its dramatic growth and the limited response from scholars and lawmakers. Part III provides a brief summary of the theory and practice of the restorative justice movement. Part IV combines these two movements to demonstrate what a private criminal justice system would look like. Part V examines potential criticisms of a new private criminal justice alternative, and Part VI concludes the article by briefly setting out suggestions for how an emerging private system of criminal justice should develop in light of these potential criticisms.(excerpt)
Spies, G. M.. Restorative Justice: A Way to Support the Healing Process of a Child Exposed to Incest.
This article highlights the value of restorative justice in minimizing the effects of child sexual abuse and how to apply it to respect the specific needs of the survivor of sexual abuse. As sexual abuse affects the child on a short, as well as on a long term basis, professionals need to explore any possible means to minimize these effects. This article discusses the value of restorative justice in supporting the healing process of a child exposed to incest. Restorative justice has been defined as a philosophy and an approach to deal with the effects of crime, viewing crime as a violation of people and relationships. The purpose of restorative justice is to heal those relationships by identifying the needs, responsibilities and obligations with the victim and the offender, together, along with the State and community. After taking into account the effects of incest on the lives of survivors, the question asked is how restorative justice as an approach during the legal process can contribute to the healing of the survivor. Through the use of restorative justice, the following needs of the victim can be addressed: regaining self power and self acceptance, letting go of guilt feelings, establishing their innocence as children, regaining the right to make decisions, regaining trust in others, and establishing personal boundaries. Time does not cure the effects of sexual abuse on children but rather the way their healing process was facilitated. More research needs to be conducted regarding restorative justice as an approach to cases of sexual abuse. (Abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,
Stalking accused trying to abuse system
from Ian Steward's article on A man described by police as "New Zealand's most dangerous stalker" has requested a restorative justice session with his latest alleged victim, though a judge has rejected it as a transparent attempt to "keep in touch".
Takagi, Paul and Shank, Gregory. Critique of Restorative Justice.
As Paul Tagaki and Gregory Shank detail, restorative justice principles and processes have received widespread attention in recent decades. They have been put into practice at many levels of society and government in numerous countries. The United Nations itself has been a significant agent in endorsing and promoting restorative justice. While acknowledging these developments, Tagaki and Shank step back from attempting to review the voluminous literature on restorative justice. Rather, they concentrate on seeking a detailed, in-depth comprehension of the Maori restorative tradition in New Zealand, for there the movement for restorative justice has gone the furthest. This includes examination of the history of the Maori restorative tradition, key legislation in New Zealand, a case history from New Zealand, the conference or conferencing model, the idea and place of community, shaming as reintegration, and the etiology of crime. In the course of this, they explore serious questions about evaluation of the effectiveness of restorative justice, and questions about the nature of community in the restorative justice paradigm and in real places.
The danger of compromise
from the article by Elaine Shpungin on OpEd Picture a stand-off between multiple parties. Perhaps it is between representatives of two nations sitting across a long polished table as they butt heads over a piece of land, or perhaps it is between red-faced members of an organization fighting over a budget item, voices raised, or maybe its kids on a grassy field arguing about which game to play. In our case, this morning, it was between our 9 yr old son (on sofa, arms crossed, body tight, face scowling) and his dad (on living room rug, visibly slowing down his breathing to be "patient," feet planted firmly).
The simple matter of saying sorry: Language skills and restorative conferencing
from the article by Pamela Snow: ...In Australia, all states and territories have enshrined approaches to the processing of young offenders that embed three core principles: adolescents are not “miniature adults” and should therefore be treated in accordance with their developmental needs; wherever possible, it is desirable to divert young people away from formal convictions, whether community-based or custodial, and accordingly, detention is an option of last resort.

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