Source: (1999) Criminal Justice Ethics 18(2).

If every crime represents a failure in moral learning—on the part of the offender, his/her community, and possibly the surrounding society-then every crime also presents an opportunity for moral learning. Just as the child accepting a treat is caught before running away and admonished to say “thank you,â€? the offender is caught in the act of turning away from moral and legal norms and punished. This analogy between moral learning and punishment breaks down, of course, if punishment is narrowly understood as excising an evil from the social body. The analogy holds, however, over a broad range of aims in criminal justice: correcting the offender, restoring social order and security, repairing harm to the victim, reaffirming moral values or rectifying a moral imbalance, and reminding all observers of the public will. All these aims are moral, for morality includes both person and society, intention and act, correcting and healing, and values and goods. To the extent that moral aims are achieved—incorporated into individual and/or communal life—some kind of moral learning is also accomplished. This paper argues that victim offender conferencing offers an opportunity to reevaluate and expand the educational potential of criminal justice. The reevaluation depends on the expansion: if the public response to crime can be more effective educationally, then the educational aims of criminal justice can be more reasonably and directly pursued. If victim offender conferencing offers more effective educational practice than does punishment alone, then the aims listed above can be reaffirmed more clearly as educational aims. That is, moral learning—in its various forms—can have more priority as an outcome of the criminal justice system.