Source: (2005) Paper prepared for presentation at meetings of the Canadian Political Science Association, London, Ontario, June 2-4. Downloaded 12 August 2005.

The discourse of restorative justice has come to considerable prominence in recent years, emerging in diverse political and social contexts. From peacebuilding efforts in Africa and Latin America to movements for criminal justice reform around the world, restorative justice has surfaced as a plausible alternative to conventional criminal justice, introducing innovative practices and challenging common understandings about crime and justice. This paper will explore this phenomenon by examining three contexts in which the discourse of restorative justice has gained notable influence: (1) the restorative justice movement in criminology and criminal justice; (2) restorative justice in the project of peacebuilding; (3) Aboriginal justice and alternative sentencing in Canada. These cases are distinguished not by geography, political boundaries or academic discipline, but by the problem restorative justice is put forth as addressing in each instance. This is a largely analytical distinction, as there is significant crossfertilization between these three cases, designed to facilitate reflection on the meaning of restorative justice, its normative significance and the importance of context to both of these objectives. I argue that despite the plurality of contexts in which the discourse of restorative justice has materialized and the strong differences between them, the usage of restorative justice language in each case reflects a limited but significant convergence around a common core of principles and concerns. (excerpt)

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