Source: (1999) Liverpool Law Review. 21(2/3):197-216.

Restorative conferencing is a new style of criminal justice intervention which is being increasingly used in Britain, especially as a method of delivering police cautions to youth offenders. Is is currently the subject of a lively debate, focusing on its effectiveness as a method of crime reduction, its benefits to victims, its feasibility in modern society, its effect upon procedural rights of arrestees, and the danger of it becoming a degradation ceremony. This paper seeks to extend the debate to include less obvious, but equally important, issues. The paper focuses on the processes of reintegrative shaming which, inspired by the work of John Braithwaite, are at the core of restorative conferencing. It places these processes in broader historical and cultural contexts, such as the re-emergence of shame sanctions in the USA, the attack on the notion of shame launched by cultural radicals, and the changes which have occurred historically in our emotional response to offenders. Three sets of questions emerge: What is the political xe2x80x93 as distinct from penal xe2x80x93 meaning of the practice of shaming offenders? How does the practice affect the progressive cultural aim of fuller realization of the individual? At what point does forgiveness become less of a virtue, more of a vice?