To reform or to abolish? Christian perspectives on punishment, prison, and restorative justice
From the Ave Maria Law Review article by Jordan J. Ballor: In this Essay, I will attempt to fill in a gap in preceding studies of restorative justice by paying special attention to the religious, most specifically to the Christian, perspectives on restorative justice. I will show that it is more accurate to speak of a plurality of restorative justice movements than of a unified and univocal restorative justice movement, particularly with respect to the variety of Christian approaches. In delineating the various Christian perspectives on restorative justice, I will use as a primary litmus test the various figures’ attitudes toward government coercion and punishment, most particularly with regard to incarceration, detention, and imprisonment. Attitudes toward prison provide an excellent way to map out the restorative justice landscape.
In using coercion as a delimiting factor, my analysis mirrors in a
general way the approach used by numerous others to describe Christian
engagement with society in general. Paying attention to coercion also
has the added benefit of relativizing the widespread terminological
disagreements over the definitions of words like punishment and
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