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Book Reviews

These books have been reviewed on Restorative Justice Online.

Review: The psychology of emotion in restorative practice: how Affect Script Psychology explains how and why restorative justice works
Reviewed by Martin Wright: The phrase 'hate the sin but love the sinner' is attributed to Gandhi, although St Augustine said something similar. More recent psychological thinking takes the idea further, saying that the person him or herself should be encouraged to greater self-esteem. This is one more plank in the case against punishment as an acceptable or effective way of controlling each other's behaviour. Students of restorative practices are moving from research into whether they work to explaining why they work, and this book is an example. (Another is Meredith Rossner's Just emotions: rituals of restorative justice, 2013).
Book Review: Just emotions: rituals of restorative justice.
by Martin Wright It is well established that restorative justice 'works', whether by that you mean that re-offending rates are reduced, or that a high proportion of victims and offenders feel that it was a suitable way to handle their case, or that it transformed their relationship and understanding of each other. What we haven't had is much explanation of why it works, apart from general references to empathy, and that is what Meredith Rossner sets out to provide. She begins with some case histories, and mentions that for example eye contact can be 'probably a much more profound apology than anything they could have said' (p. 4). But an unsuccessful conference can be a 'waste of time' (p. 6). An 'emotional' conference is seen as a good one, and she identifies reasons for satisfaction and the reverse, suggesting that 'examining the dynamics of conferences in depth is more productive than more generalized comparisons with courts' (p. 20). Two common criteria for 'success', satisfaction and re-offending, depend on the quality of the conference more than simply on whether the case went to RJ or to a court.
Martin Wright reviews Forging Justice: A Restorative Justice Mystery
from the article by Martin Wright: Police detective Claire Cassidy was disillusioned after twelve years pursuing young people – often the same ones repeatedly – in the decaying steel town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Book Review: Reconstructing restorative justice philosophy
by Martin Wright: A symposium on a Greek island, under Chatham House rules, is a promising setting for a collection of articles, and the fifteen participants to this one have tackled a challenging subject. Part I, 'Reconsidering restorative justice', begins by setting the scene and defining some terms (though not 'justice' or 'punishment'). Taking Aristotle as a starting point, Vasso Artinopolou and Theo Gavrielides see the need for justice and lawfulness, but also fairness and equality, which implies reducing social inequality. Later writers emphasise the need to restore relationships: participating justice includes the process as well as the outcome. There is more to restorative justice (RJ) than conferencing, Gerry Johnstone says. It is concerned with the victim and the harm suffered, not merely the wrongdoing; it does not merely punish but 'recovers' the offender; and it does not aim to be dispassionate but allows emotions to be expressed. This leads on to a broader concept of living restoratively, which basically means considerately: work on relationships, involve those affected by a decision in a dialogue, and take responsibility for your actions.
Review: Civilising criminal justice: An international restorative justice agenda for penal reform
by Eric Assur A diverse group of European and United Kingdom scholars have collaborated to produce a fine collection of eighteen chapters or articles regarding restorative justice in nations other than the United States. The book is international from cover to cover with an authorship reflecting far more of the world than North American readers may be familiar with. The editors are from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. An Australian, himself a well-regarded leader in the Restorative Justice (R.J.) field, offers a thought provoking Forward. Most readers will probably agree that this international collection is a “fine start to a project of civilising criminal justice that will challenge our grandchildren.”
Review: The little book of restorative justice for colleges and universities
from the review by Duane Rohrbacher: The purpose of The Little Book of Restorative Justice for Colleges and Universities is not to determine how to fit restorative justice (‘RJ’) practices into student conduct programming. The purpose of this book is to expose the reader to RJ practices, the theory behind RJ, and to offer examples of how institutions with different student populations have successfully implemented RJ programming into their student conduct scheme. The author offers three different types of RJ models: conferencing, circles, and boards. These are all explained in detail in separate chapters. The audience for this book is clearly student conduct administrators. A student conduct administrator, who is interested in exploring RJ principles, though, would only find the first six chapters useful.
Book review: Rights & Restoration within Youth Justice
From the review by Juhah Oudshoorn: If policymakers have the objective of bettering justice responses for young people, then Theo Gavrielides‟ (2012) edited volume, Rights & Restoration within Youth Justice is a must read. It makes an important contribution to youth justice. 1) It bridges a growing divide between evidence-based research and practice; 2) It promotes a participatory framework for doing democracy that necessitates youth voice; 3) It allows for complex issues – serious crimes, like domestic violence – to be responded to in complex – imaginative yet careful – ways. Gavrielides does all this by judiciously connecting the disciplines of restorative justice and human rights. The key question of the book is: how can these two fields work collaboratively to accomplish the above goal? Contributors are a blend of scholars, policymakers, and practitioners. This book review will do two things. One, it will give a brief synopsis of the textual themes. Two, it will highlight how this book can better justice for youth: namely, in the area of policy.
Review: Restorative justice today: Practical applications.
by Eric Assur Over the past thirty years the number of books or publications on Restorative Justice (R.J.) has increased annually. In 2013 justice practitioners, students and conflict resolution (or conflict prevention) readers may proclaim this publication as their book of the year. The authors, both with interesting backgrounds and academic credentials have provided a ‘practical’ look at the current applications for R.J. in the United States and elsewhere. Unlike most North American or United Kingdom anthologies with limited geographic focus this publication provides an impressive worldwide frame of reference. The words they use are well chosen and the entire collection of twenty five (25) articles by a well chosen collection of twenty nine listed authors is thoughtfully organized.
Review: Restorative Justice-Theories and Practices of Moral Imagination
The title alone should draw in the curious criminal justice reader. Just what is Moral Imagination and how is it related to North American justice, philosophy and practice? Amy Levad, clearly a proponent of a better way of doing justice, takes readers on a journey through philosophy and criminal justice practice. In what can readily be found ‘on line’ as her doctoral dissertation for the Emory University Religion, Ethics, and Society department, Levad provides both an overview of criminal justice and restorative justice (RJ) practices and a primer on Nicomachean Ethics and other works by Aristotle. Five unnamed counties in Colorado with RJ programs are the target for a research segment of the book. The book, a bit heavy on the philosophy, serves as a well thought out support of the restorative justice field by a self described Christian social ethicist. Religion is never the focus of the book, but some faith groups are credited for their seminal RJ projects and their ongoing support of a justice which cares for victims and seeks, when appropriate, restoration of relationships over more punitive justice modes.
Review: International perspectives on restorative justice in education
International Perspectives is a North American publication of twelve chapters offered by about a dozen authors with observations regarding the wide array of approaches or applications for what is broadly known as restorative justice (R.J.). Strangely, it quickly appears that many of the articles do not actually examine R.J. in educational settings. The school principal, college residence hall administrator and the teachers who seek out the book to guide them in improving approaches to school discipline or dispute resolution will be disappointed. However, some of the contributions are worthy of reading and reflection, despite the confusing title selection.
Restorative interventions needed for 97% cases where defendants plead guilt
from the entry by Lorenn Walker on Restorative Justice & Other Public Health Approaches for Healing: Not Guilty: Are the Acquitted Innocent? is an excellent new book by Dan Givelber, Northeastern Law School professor, and Amy Farrell Northeastern Criminal Justice School professor. In this easy to read book, the authors provide valuable information and insights into how judges and juries behave, and how understanding acquittals better (acquittals occur once in every 100 cases) could improve our justice system....
Review: Regulating restorative justice: A comparative study of legislative provision in European countries
Reviewed by Martin Wright Many European countries have taken at least some steps towards incorporating restorative justice in their system, and this book assess how far some of them have gone in formalizing their progress in legislation. The countries represented are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and two neighbours, Israel and Turkey. Each chapter, after two introductory ones, follows a template giving a legal description and evaluation of restorative processes, and the political and legal understanding of victim-offender mediation and restorative justice. The list of nearly 40 subdivisions, combined with the analysis in the concluding chapter, are in themselves a useful outline of factors that need to be considered by anyone planning to introduce restorative justice or indeed to improve on measures already introduced. There is something to learn from most countries about how to introduce RJ, or in some cases how not to.
Review: The legacy of community justice
Reviewed by Dan Van Ness There are really two subjects of this collection of articles: One is community justice, which continues to exert influence in the juvenile and criminal justice fields. The second, and perhaps more important one, is Dennis (Denny) Maloney. Denny was an influential, charismatic, larger than life leader in the restorative and community justice movement until his untimely death in 2007.
Review: Art in Action: Expressive Arts Therapy and Social Change
By Marian Liebmann It’s refreshing to see a book which contains many surprising and good techniques using our ‘right brains’ and the whole of ourselves. We spend too much time on ‘left-brain’ activities, planning, writing notes and reports, working out logistics, spending hours in front of our computer screens. This book is about another way of experiencing the world, and of helping many others in the process. This collection of essays seems to be an outcome of collaboration between staff of Lesley University (in Cambridge, USA and Israel) and the European Graduate School in Switzerland, the only master’s degree course in Expressive Arts in Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding. In fact many of the authors are involved in both institutions.
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.
Review: Emotions, Crime and Justice
from the review by Susan A. Bandes on Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books: Emotions, Crime and Justice is a major step toward a more theoretically and practically nuanced conversation. As this book reveals in a series of original essays of great range, depth and sophistication, criminology has much to gain by investigating the emotions underlying crime and punishment. The collection spans a range of theoretical, ethnographic and experimental approaches, a range of criminal justice institutions and roles, and a range of cultures (indeed, for many U.S. readers, one of the pleasures of this volume will be the opportunity to become immersed in the criminology literature of the U.K., Australia and New Zealand; all but four of the twenty-two contributors are from non U.S. common law countries). Perhaps its greatest strength lies in the range of emotional experience it reveals and explores, including the emotions that accompany violence and that animate attitudes toward crime, the emotional experience of obeying or resisting the law, the implicit rules governing the display or feeling of emotions by employees of police departments or prisons, the emotional roots of collective violence and collective reconciliation, and the moral sentiments and public emotions animating democratic discourse on crime and punishment.
Review: The Collapse of American Criminal Justice
reviewed by Michael Corbin on Crime and Punishment: “The rule of law has vanished in America’s criminal justice system.” That is how Harvard University Press begins its description of last year’s The Collapse of American Criminal Justice--Harvard professor William Stuntz’s magisterial, synoptic look at our country’s system of punishment.
Book Review: The Machinery of Criminal Justice
from the review by Andrew Taslitz on Jotwell: ....Bibas’s new book, The Machinery of Criminal Justice, is so humane and thoughtful an analysis of the reforms needed in our criminal justice system that I find myself drawn to giving him still more good press....Bibas’s argument turns on three central ideas: (1) the system pretends to a mechanistic efficiency deaf to the emotions and meaningful expressions that undergird any sound system of criminal justice; (2) lawyers and other experts have hijacked the system to serve their own needs, displacing defendants, victims, and even judges; and (3) the political forces at work are skewed toward undue penal harshness and elite control rather than adequately balanced by informed lay participation.
Review: The forgiving life: A pathway to overcoming resentment and creating a legacy of love
by Jacqueline Song, University of the Philippines-Dilman Justice can be restored in many ways, as the readers of this site are well aware. Sometimes, victims and offenders choose to bring mercy alongside justice as a way to heal from the ravages of injustice. Forgiving and seeking forgiveness together constitute one of these merciful strategies. To forgive is to struggle to rid oneself of resentment and to respond to an offender with goodness. To seek forgiveness includes internal sorrow, a conviction not to repeat the offense, and recompense where appropriate. When one forgives, he or she never condones the wrong and never tosses justice aside. Forgiveness and justice work side by side for good.
Review: Restorative justice in practice: Evaluating what works for victims and offenders.
by Eric Assur Three British criminology researchers and educators, affiliated with the University of Sheffield, have offered a very rich book on the use of victim-offender mediation programs (what they call schemes) in adult criminal justice venues in England. Most early Restorative Justice (RJ) writing has focused on juvenile justice programs, generally with a concentration on diversionary approaches for first time offenders. The Shapland, Robinson and Sorsby book looks exclusively and intensely at three ‘schemes’ and several hundred ‘cases’ involving adults. The criminal justice programs they studied were funded by the British Ministry of Justice – Home Office between 2001 and 2008. They worked with adults at arrest, while going through the courts and even with some while imprisoned. In a nutshell, this is a thought provoking book that has few significant weak points. This is not a primer on Restorative Justice. It assumes that readers are at least moderately informed about RJ. It belongs in the hands of North American justice administrators. While not designed as a textbook (no end of chapter discussion questions), it concludes with end notes and references that make it a useful reference for anyone seeking to look further into transformative justice and RJ, especially as found in the United Kingdom and Australia.

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