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Restorative Justice and Apology

Articles and other resources on the nature and meaning of apology in restorative justice.

Healing the victims of Lockerbie
How should we treat apologies in criminal law?
Should it make a difference if a criminal defendant apologizes in court? That question raises many others. 1. A difference to whom: the judge, the victim, the defendant? 2. How do we gauge the sincerity of the apology ("I was wrong" vs."I'm sorry I was caught"). 3. Was the apology ordered by the judge or was it voluntary? 4. Does the victim need to accept the apology and extend forgiveness in order for it to be considered in sentencing? 5. If the apology is made before or at sentencing, should it be for what the offender did to the victim or for what he or she did to the government and society as a whole? Or both?
Brown, Jennifer Gerarda. The Role of Apology in Negotiation
In recent years increased attention has been given to the role that apology might properly play in negotiation and conflict resolution. In practical terms, attention has been given to the crucial elements in an effective apology. At the same time, underlying the practical aspects of the role of apology are certain more theoretical matters. For example, theoretical aspects include the nature and purpose of apology, the identification of the giver and the receiver of an apology, and the appropriate time for making an apology. Against this background, Jennifer Gerarda Brown discusses both practical and theoretical issues relating to the role of apology in negotiation
Cohen, Raymond. Apology and Reconciliation in International Relations.
This discussion of apology begins with an analysis of the phenomenon within a framework of dispute processing. The author takes a comparative and cross-cultural approach, discussing the Japanese harmony model, Chinese hierarchy model, Arab sulha model, and Anglo-Saxon individualist model of apology. The discussion also covers three types of apology. These include apology as moral restitution for a historical injustice, and apology for acknowledged injury or breach of international law. The third, nonapology, expresses regret but actually avoids acknowledging responsibility or liability. In summary, apology between individuals operates quite differently for reconciliation from that practiced in the more abstract and representative level of the state. Nonetheless, it is a significant and practical tool of diplomacy for resuming normal relations.
Zehr, Howard. Why Can't We Just Apologize?
"Even before the Amish community's response to the murders at the Nickel Mines, PA, school, the concept of forgiveness had been getting a great deal of attention in academic and popular venues. But what about apology? What makes up an apology, and what is its role? And why is a real apology so hard, and so rare?" (excerpt) In this article Mr. Zehr touches on the aspects of the Power of Apology; Components of Genuine Apology; Vulnerability; Forgiveness Does Not Eliminate Accountability; Apology for Slavery; and the Miracle of Forgiveness.
Latif,Elizabeth A. Apologetic Justice: Evaluating Apologies Tailored Toward Legal Solutions
Elizabeth Latif begins this examination of apologies in criminal justice processes with the observation that apologies have become a common feature of public discourse and the redress of past wrongdoing. While apologies have long had a place in the remediation of defamation claims, they are now beginning to be incorporated into the resolution of other legal disputes. Restorative justice approaches, for example, make the act of apology central to victim-offender mediation. At the same time, some have criticized the use of apologies tailored toward legal solutions as failing to provide meaningful reconciliation between parties in conflict. In this context, Latif contends that, although apologies in the legal arena may be somewhat weakened, they can play a valuable role in light of the benefits to victims, wrongdoers, and their communities.
Blecher, Natalia Josephine. Sorry justice: Apology in Australian family group conferencing.
Family group conferences place great emphasis on the restorative potential of the offender's apology. Apology, conceptualized as a prelude to healing, forms a sort of unspoken touchstone of restorative justice. And yet, once examined, apology emerges as a remarkably complex, variable, and fragile gesture. Even the most heartfelt apology can easily misfire. This article examines why, and does so in the context of selected Australian juvenile conferencing schemes. It commences by offering a definition of apology tailored to the contours of criminal justice. Then, by setting that definition against the empirical reality of conferencing practice, it uncovers a range of reasons for what Daly has termed the “gap” between conferencing theory and practice. There are, ultimately, limits to humans' capacities to meaningfully apologize and authentically forgive. These limitations need not be jumped upon by policymakers as” problems to fix,” but should simply be taken as delineating a boundary line of restorative justice. (author's abstract)
Simpson, Sheila Quinn. Apology: The Importance and Power of Saying "I'm Sorry."
By definition, apology is a written or spoken admission of error, discourtesy, or regret. Apology is not a feeling. It is an action -- a meaningful extension of yourself to another. Apology takes responsibility. By withholding or offering the gift of an apology, you can forever change lives. (excerpt)
Taft, Lee. Apology Subverted: the Commodification of Apology
Lee Taft notes that we are living in a time in which public acts of contrition have become commonplace. He cites one commentator who describes it as "apology mania." In this context, Taft examines the role of apology in the context of civil mediation. Highlighting the moral dimension of apology, he emphasizes its significance for healing of injury when "healin" and "injury" are understood in "noncommodified" terms. That is, some types of injury and compensatory redress can be satisfactorily commodified in monetary terms: harm and compensation for harm can be equated with a dollar value. Other types of injury and redress should be understood in noncommodified terms -- in other words, in a moral dimension. Apology then can lead to healing through a restoration of moral balance. It is precisely this extraordinary value of apology that gives Taft pause when considering the role of apology in the legal arena. He argues that when apology is thrust into the legal arena, its fundamental moral character may become dramatically altered and subverted from a moral action into a market transaction.
Choi, Jung Jin and Severson, Margaret M. "What! What kind of apology is this?": The nature of apology in victim offender mediation.(Report).
This qualitative study examined the multiple perspectives of participants' experiences of a Victim Offender Mediation (VOM) program operating in a Midwestern city. Thirty-four face-to-face interviews were conducted with 37 participants, including juvenile offenders and their parents, adult crime victims, mediators, and referral sources. The findings indicate disparities exist between the juvenile offenders and their victims in their perceptions of the genuineness of the apology delivered. The nature of apology is explored and its meaning in the restorative justice context is set out. This study provides a snapshot of the process and practice of restorative justice work. In particular, this study highlights the complicated nature of communication between and among VOM participants. Recommendations are made to improve victimsensitive restorative justice practices through the composition and delivery of the apology. (excerpt)

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