Restorative justice is defined as “using humanistic, no punitive strategies to right wrongs and restore social harmony” (Siegel, 2008, p. 189). Instead of imposing harsh penalties on offenders like long prison sentences or even the death penalty, restorative justice calls for a more rehabilitative approach, such as reconciliation and offender assistance.
Even though restorative justice has many supporters, it also boasts numerous opponents as well. In response to a proposal for restorative justice, conservatives largely contest the idea in favor of a more “get-tough” on criminals approach. “According to conservative theory, human beings are obliged to curb their drive for self-gratification. Offenders are to be punished harshly in order to provide them with a moral lesson and to serve as a general deterrent” (Mantle, Fox, & Dhami, 2005, p. 20). Many citizens worry that with the advancement of restorative justice comes the loss of state and government power. Because formal court processes are usually avoided and communities execute their own “judge and jury” practices when a crime is committed, restorative justice is sometimes seen as a threat to traditional U.S. state and federal court systems. A reduction in the involvement of the American court systems is viewed as a “breakdown of traditional social and legal authority” (Mantle et al., 2005, p. 20). With “a culture that is becoming increasingly conservative and focused on security rather than personal freedom,” (Siegel, 2008, p. 194) many conservatives are resistant to a form of justice that gives more liberty an...
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...r person in authority” (Mantle et al., 2005, p. 7). Native Americans are also historically known for using the “sentencing circle “where villagers could discuss an offender’s crime with him or her and jointly decide on a rehabilitative measure.
Restorative justice has many opponents and advocates. Whether or not this approach to criminal justice will gain a stronger foothold in our society is yet to be determined, but restorative justice is not likely to disappear anytime soon.
Erin C. Young
Greg Mantle, F. D., & Dhami, M. K. (2005). Restorative justice and three individual theories of crime. Internet Journal of Criminology IJC , 1-36. Retrieved from http://www.restorativejustice.org/articlesdb/articles/5914
Siegel, L. J. (2008). Critical criminology: It's a class thing. Criminology: The core (pp. 173-196). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.
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