Realizing the Full Potential of Restorative Justice

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News Article

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restorative justice, legal reform, justice framework


The application of restorative justice has resulted in positive outcomes for individuals and the criminal justice system, including greater accountability and compliance by offenders, higher satisfaction for all parties concerned, greater efficiency, and cost effectiveness as compared with the mainstream criminal justice system. However, this limited use of restorative justice as diversion fails to realize its greatest potential. It leaves intact the current criminal justice system, with its hardboiled logic, as the standard-bearer for justice against which restorative justice appears to be a soft-option.

But appearances are mistaken. To see clearly the potential of restorative justice for the transformation of the criminal justice system, we must pay attention to the idea of justice it offers, as well as the challenge it represents to the logic of the current system. Restorative justice is more than just another path to the goals of the current criminal justice system – it is a different way of thinking that offers a new roadmap for justice. Understood like this, restorative justice has much more to offer the reform of criminal justice than does merely diverting people away from the current system. It supports a proactive and preventative approach to justice within communities and across systems, so that matters do not reach the criminal justice system at all. It is also a powerful framework with which to reshape the current pathways within the criminal justice system.