Seminar Report: Restorative Justice -- Restorative Practices: Are They the Same?
Jul 23, 2009
In early June, the European Forum for Restorative Justice (Forum) hosted a seminar exploring the similarities and differences between "restorative justice" and "restorative practices." The event resulted from a request presented at the 2008 board meeting asking the Forum to include schools, community mediation and other societal contexts in its work.
The seminar focused on the theoretical understandings of "restorative justice" and "restorative practices." Three speakers explored the various issues related to expanding the organization's scope.
Martin Wright, who made the original request, offered an overview titled, "Restorative Practices and Restorative Justice." He explored the various forms that the concepts of "restorative" and "justice" can take. He argued for a focus on the overarching philosophy behind "restorative practices" and "restorative justice". He went on to outline a vision where restorative practices are used in all aspects of social life including schools, communities, criminal justice, commercial interests, etc.
Dr. Inge Vanfraechem followed with a presentation titled, "Restorative Justice: In Search of Clarity." She called for a clear definition of restorative justice to include the following points:
Restorative justice as an option for doing justice;
After the occurrence of an offence;
Primarily articulated towards repairing: individual, relational and social harm;
Best accomplished through communication processes
While stressing the differences between "restorative justice" and "restorative practices", Dr. Vanfraechem maintained that "restorative practices should not be excluded from restorative justice." Combining the two ideas runs the risk of both blurring the lines between criminal and non-criminal activities and widening the net of social control by co-opting civil society.
Dr. Ivo Aertsen explored the concept of "justice" in his presentation, "Who is Afraid of Justice?" While explaining that there are "more inherent similarities than differences" between the two ideas, he argued for a focus on restorative justice. He encouraged the better development of the concept of "justice" in the field. He raised the concern that a focus on "restorative practices" could diminish the ability of "restorative justice" to challenge criminal justice practice.
The full seminar report is available online from the Forum.The matter of broadening the organisational scope will be taken up in the 2010 board meeting. Reports from previous meetings are available on the Forum's website.