Source: (2004) In, Howard Zehr and Barb Toews, eds., Critical Issues in Restorative Justice. Monsey, New York and Cullompton, Devon, UK: Criminal Justice Press and Willan Publishing. Pp. 33-45.

In this chapter Val Napoleon reflects on the definition of restorative justice from both a personal perspective and an academic perspective. As she remarks, she has reflected long and hard on justice, punishment, and rehabilitation. Her reflections stem from a number of significant shaping elements in her life: her heritage as a member of a First Nation people in Canada; the effects of a brother’s interactions with the criminal justice system; and her training in law; to name but a few. With all of this in mind, she contends that proponents of restorative justice, constrained by unexamined assumptions, must undergo a profound shift in thinking to loose restorative justice from the confines of Western rational thought. Restorative justice can only become a force for positive social change, she argues, by challenging assumptions about human nature and relationships, and by 'contextualizing' restorative justice politically, socially, and economically in the larger world. Thus Napoleon explores fundamental perspectives on human nature, harmony, and relationships to see how those perspectives affect issues in restorative justice and its definition.