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An Introduction to Restorative Justice

Van Ness, Daniel W
June 4, 2015

Source: (1999) Paper presented at the Restorative Justice Conference conducted by the Boston Theological Institute and the Center for Restorative Justice (Suffolk University) at Boston, Massachusetts, 11-13 November.

Dan Van Ness, asked to provide an introduction to restorative justice at a conference, begins by recounting the effects of a crime of house burglary and vandalism. The victims of the crime – the owners of the house – were on vacation when young people broke into and damaged their home and possessions. When the owners returned and found the destruction, they were told by the police that the perpetrators had been arrested, had pled guilty, and would be sentenced to significant time in prison. Hence, they – the victims – did not have to do anything. The criminal justice process was working just fine! But the victims, left out of the process almost entirely, were not satisfied. Why? What did they need in the aftermath of the crime? Why would that be relevant to criminal justice? Van Ness uses this case to enter into a discussion of the framework of modern criminal justice in comparison with the framework of restorative justice. How do these two frameworks view the nature of crime, its effects, and the appropriate response to crime?


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