Is there justice in restorative?
Jul 09, 2009
From Howard Zehr's blog: Catherine Bargen, a long-time practitioner and visionary thinker, raised an important issue that deserves more discussion. The rest of this entry is in her words, recorded and edited with her permission.
When I learned about restorative justice I felt that it applied to all of life and shouldn’t just be about criminal justice. I’ve made a career of thinking outside the criminal justice box - for example, restorative justice in schools - and I continue to think the work being done in this field is very important.
More recently I became aware that there are all these other movements in restorative justice. In fact, the voices seem to be most vibrant outside of criminal justice, like in schools; even environmental conservation officers and all kinds of groups like dispute resolution centers are really grabbing hold. But they are saying, “We’re not in the justice system, so let’s call it restorative practices and apply what we’ve learned from restorative justice to a new context.”
Restorative justice provides a gateway for people to look at the world through a new lens that goes far beyond criminal justice: it applies to everyday life as we negotiate our social relationships. We need to do it in all of life. So in our enthusiasm - myself included - we have kept the word restorative and put it in front of much of the good work we are doing that involves people, repair and relationship building.
Suddenly I’ve had to step back and ask, “Why are we hanging on to the word ‘restorative’ and not the word ‘justice?‘ Is it important to keep the term restorative justice? When we use the word restorative without the word justice, are we still talking about the same thing?”