Source: (1998) Journal of Law and Society. 25(2):237-256. Reprinted in Restorative Justice. Declan Roche (2003), ed. Pp. 385-404. The International Library of Essays in Law & Legal Theory, Second Series. Aldershot, Hants, England: Dartmouth/Ashgate.

The paper reviews the theory and policy proposals of recent formulations of abolitionism and restorative justice. Challenges are posed to some of the assumptions of abolitionism by considering its applicability to acts of violence against women, children, and minority ethnic citizens. In particular, the assumptions that dangerous offenders are few, and that, the 'meaning' of harmful act is negotiable between perpetrators and victims are called into question. The symbolic function of criminalization and penalization is discussed. The paper considers whether the strategies suggested by recent proponents of forms of abolitionism and restorative justice can satisfy doubts about the adequacy of earlier abolitionist formulations in relation to both the symbolic and instrumental functions presently served by criminal law. Whilst calls for further criminalization and penalization of racial, sexual and domestic violence are understandable , the abolitionist case that retributive justice is more likely to increase rather than reduce such violence, and to leave the victim unsatisfied, is defended.