Source: (2004) In Peter Sedgwick, ed., Rethinking sentencing: a contribution to the debate. A report from the Mission and Public Affairs Council. London: Church House Publishing. Pp. 18-37. Downloaded 16 September 2005.

Restorative justice is a historical response to the crisis of purpose, identity and conscience that is facing the criminal justice system. While the current criminal justice system sees crime as the breaking of the law, and violation of the ‘King’s Peace’, restorative justice sees crime as a violation of human relationships. Thus, where the current system aims at protecting the public and inculcating civil responsibility by insisting on a philosophy of retribution and punishment, restorative justice aims at promoting accountability by healing the harm. Justice, in the current system, has little scope for serving as a means of reconciliation and reconnection to the community. Indeed, even as far as its stated aim of rehabilitation is concerned, the current system has been found seriously wanting. Restorative justice, by contrast, draws on a variety of healing and transforming processes to effect public safety by transforming the damaged relationships through an experience of heightened awareness of the damage and a commitment to active responsibility in response. Without addressing the crisis of purpose, the problems that lead to a lack of confidence in the system, such as low clear up rates, delays in the process and prison overcrowding, are unlikely to be solved. (excerpt)

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