Social work and restorative justice
Nov 01, 2010
Social Work and Restorative Justice: Skills for Dialogue, Peacemaking and Reconciliation, edited by Elizabeth Beck, Nancy P. Kropf and Pamela Blume-Leonard (Oxford University Press, 2011), is an important collection of essays on this subject. It will be of interest to both social work and restorative justice practitioners. The following is the Afterward that Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz and I were invited to contribute:
The field that has come to be known as restorative justice was born in experiment and practice rather than theory; the term “restorative justice” and the conceptual framework came later. Although it did not directly emerge from the field of social work, restorative justice was born in a context and era much influenced by social work. It is appropriate, then, that the fields of restorative justice and social work are again converging, as the authors in this volume so convincingly argue....
One of the most evident intersections of restorative justice and social work is in the foundational issue of values. Moreover, their ultimate goal is similar: to help build and maintain healthy individuals, relationships and communities. Restorative justice offers a framework and a set of practices to repair, to the extent possible, relationships that have been damaged, focusing especially on human needs and obligations. These practices and concepts have greatly benefited by the skills and framework offered by social work. This is exemplified in our own collaboration over the past three decades....
Unlike the criminal justice framework, we argue that restorative justice and social work contain within them a vision of how we want to live together in our communities. The values and practices that are required to maintain healthy individuals and relationships are inherent in the conceptual and value frameworks themselves. The two fields also share an inherent vision to address the critical issues within both areas: systemic issues of oppression that have often been pushed to the back burner in the interests of meeting human need in the here and now. Arguably, therefore, there is a much stronger natural affinity between restorative justice and social work than between criminal justice and restorative justice. This is just one more reason that we are so appreciative of the editors and authors of this book.