Source: (1997) International Journal of the Sociology of Law 25(3): 245-262.Lawlessness and violence in many parts of Papua New Guinea (PNG) present a growing challenge to the authority of the state. State institutions charged with controlling crime have been increasingly overwhelmed by escalating demands and diminishing resources. Traditions of police violence and frustrations with the perceived limitations of the Western model of criminal justice have contributed to a growth in retributive and militaristic responses to crime and social disorder. An essay outlines the retributive character of state responses and their often counterproductive outcomes. The concept of restorative justice, borrowed from wider criminological debates, might be usefully employed to stimulate new thinking in PNG criminal justice. Restorative justice is a concept that appears to sit well in the Melanesian social environment. Incipient restorative justice institutions are identified, such as criminal surrenders and gang retreats.