The spread of crime control strategies like restorative justice can be understood as a part of the globalized exchange of criminal justice knowledge and practice. Over the past decade, there has been considerable discussion about how ideas of crime control and specific policies and practices transfer between states.
Shifts in economic and social structures and changes in cultural sensibilities are seen to explain potential convergences of crime control. Globalization represents a growing international economic, political, legal and cultural interconnectedness through advances in technology, international law and neoliberal economics and politics and it is often assumed that criminal justice policies are converging worldwide.
The development of restorative justice across jurisdictions can be seen in the context of this broader convergence of criminal justice policy, particularly in the Anglophone world and parts of the European Union.
Restorative justice has also developed at a time of mass imprisonment, predominantly in Anglophone states. The development of community justice strategies, victim offender mediation and restorative justice occurred at a time when imprisonment rates were progressively reaching historic highs. From the mid-1970s to the early years of the 21st century US imprisonment numbers increased by more than 500 per cent, with over 2.3 million people incarcerated.
The rise of restorative justice has also occurred concurrent with research increasingly identifying that higher imprisonment rates are associated with societies that have higher levels of inequality and a lesser commitment to social democratic and inclusionary values. Among Western-style democracies it is those who have most strongly adopted neoliberalism that have the highest imprisonment rates (particularly the US, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom [UK] and South Africa), while social democracies with coordinated market economies have the lowest (Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark). It has also tended to be neoliberal states that have been the main exporters of restorative justice ideas, and this connection is not accidental.
This chapter aims to address a number of objectives. The first is to explore more fully the relationship between restorative justice and what is here termed the ‘logic of empire’, by examining the role of restorative justice in neoliberal crime control strategies and the broader role played by these strategies in reproducing a particular cultural logic or hegemonic norm about the nature of offending and victimization.
Second, this chapter will consider the role of restorative justice in the global exchange of crime control strategies, with particular attention paid to the place of restorative justice in achieving justice in transitional societies. Underpinning this is the paradox of restorative justice: that it promises a more socially responsive and emancipatory approach to criminal justice and penality, yet it is an approach that fits with at least some of the values that predominate within more punitive law-and-order politics.