A relational vision of justice
As a relational theory of justice, RJ is rooted in a relational understanding of human beings and the world. It starts from the fundamental assumption that human beings are inherently relational. This is more than merely a description about the way in which we live or a claim about the benefits that relationships bring. Human beings do indeed live in relationships with one another, but, a relational theory claims that we could not do otherwise. We are, on this account, formed in and through relationship with others. Relationship is central to who we are and who we become.
This is not to say that we are just the sum of our relationships or wholly determined by them. We still make choices for ourselves and are responsible for those choices. But a relational approach reveals the extent to which our choices are made possible by and realized with the help of others. Our choices also affect others.
A needle for the restorative justice compass
Injustice occurs when people are turned into objects through relationships. Justice occurs when people are honored through relationships.
So for Vaandering, what is needed in restorative justice is a concerned effort to remind us all of the following:
- Justice is a call to recognize that all humans are worthy and to be honored.
- Injustice occurs when people are objectified.
- The term restorative justice becomes meaningful when it refers to restoring people to being honored as human.
Is restorative justice a compass without a needle?
....an important new contribution by Dorothy Vaandering. (“A faithful compass: rethinking the term restorative justice to find clarity.” Contemporary Justice Review, Vol 14, No. 3, Sept 2011, 307-328).
Vaandering’s research and experiences are in the realm of education, but she speaks to the field as a whole, warning that although it has offered a compass, the compass has been lacking a needle.
Debating restorative justice
reviewed by Martin Wright:
This is the first of a new series of law books, each containing two essays of about 30,000 words on different sides of a current debate. Carolyn Hoyle suggests that there is more talk than action, and some of the action called restorative is actually punitive, such as the community service performed in conspicuous clothes. In her discussion of communitarianism she regards community participation as the presence of supporters and others at a restorative conference, but does not refer to the involvement of independent voluntary-sector mediation services (and admittedly they are thin on the ground). She considers that communitarians go too far in rejecting the state. In her view restorative justice and criminal justice are complementary: courts are necessary if the accused doesn’t admit involvement. This is true; Hoyle does not exclude the use of prison for retribution, but surely in a fully restorative system the courts would impose reparative, not punitive, sanctions. She does not explore whether these should try to be proportionate to the offender’s culpability or the harm suffered by the victim.
Circling self-interest and democracy
reviewed by Dan Van Ness
Lode Walgrave begins his exceptional 2008 book Restorative Justice, Self-interest and Responsible Citizenship like many writers on restorative justice. He reviews the ancient and recent history of restorative approaches, proposes and explains a definition of restorative justice, and outlines various restorative schemes. He then contrasts restorative approaches from contemporary criminal practice and identifies ways in which the former resolves practical and ethical problems of the latter.
The person who crosses this familiar territory with Lode is well rewarded because he writes with analytical precision, a scholar’s restraint, and the passion of someone with conviction. He has much to say that is worth hearing. He once again explains clearly why he favours a maximalist definition of restorative justice, one that is not limited to deliberative schemes but which applies only to harm caused by crime. He carefully and thoroughly builds his case against punishment and against restorative justice being considered an alternative punishment rather than an alternative to punishment.
John Braithwaite video introduction to restorative justice
John Braithwaite is a leader in restorative justice (and in many other fields). He teaches at Australian National University which has now posted an 18 minute video in which he explains the basic theories and applications of restorative justice.
It is well done, and is presented in segments, which means it can be used in whole or in part.
We live in a relational and moral universe
by Dan Van Ness
At the 2nd National Conference on Restorative Justice in San Antonio, Jennifer Llewellyn spoke of the importance of relationships. “We live in a relational universe,” she said. This is why restorative justice is so powerful – it addresses something real, something that is part of the fabric of life itself. Relationships are core to who we are.
Howard Zehr on what restorative justice and revenge have in common
From his blog entry:
Before you gasp and close this page, stay with me. I’m not trying to rehabilitate the practice of revenge or retribution. Nor is my intention to discount the importance of forgiveness. I do want to explore an underlying link between them, however.