Source: (2005) Journal of Dispute Resolution. 2:349-397.

This article analyzes the philosophical premises of the two main theories of punishment that influence sentencing in most Western countries—retributivism and utilitarianism—and compares them to the basic values and practices of restorative justice. The article argues that if justice is given a deeper meaning and punishment is viewed more broadly, restorative justice practices do not contradict the basic principles upon which the current criminal justice system is based. Rather, restorative justice can be included in the criminal justice system to not only uphold the theories of that system, but also to help amend some of its deficiencies and further its goals. This article begins by exploring the deficiencies of the current criminal justice system and how restorative justice can address these deficiencies by including victims in the process and preparing the offender and community for his or her re-entry into society. The second half of the article argues that restorative justice practices are not only justifiable on a practical level, but that they also satisfy the theoretical requirements of the two major theories of punishment in Western societies—retributivism and utilitarianism. The article concludes with a discussion of how restorative justice differs from the “rehabilitative ideal”, popular in the early part of the 20th century, and whether restorative justice practices can provide enough uniformity and equality to be successful in the criminal justice systems of most Western countries.