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Book Review: Urban Crime Prevention, Surveillance and Restorative Justice.

July 30, 2009

In the UK, adult focused restorative justice is increasingly used to blend the criminal justice system with conferencing and community mediation or conflict resolution centers. Restorative justice  is used as more than a diversionary tool in low-level cases for first offenders. Court staffs have become involved in the use of victim-offender conferencing after trial and prior  to disposition. Rather than the probation service pre-sentence investigation, the restorative justice  conference (victim-offender- community agency) might offer recommendations to the court. 

Court professionals and the public have been exposed to a newurban crime prevention and restorative justice tool to be blended with traditional adjudication and sentencing formats. In this model, RJ operates under the umbrella of  the court and has thus gained enhanced creditability. Participant satisfaction, as well as court satisfaction has been good. Victim impact statements, largely ignored by the courts, have become real. Apology statements by offenders, almost never heard in a courtroom, have become a viable element of adult cases handled in this fashion.

In Northern Ireland the government has, via the Justice Act of 2003, established an independent Youth Conferencing Service to facilitate diversionary (from the police-prosecutor) and ‘court ordered’ conferences in youth justice cases. This straightforward and perhaps dry article reports on the research based on 185 community youth conferences (2003-2005). 

The third article, a full 25 pages, is more of a sociological tome on “antisocial behavior interventions and contractual goverence.”  Can a contract between misbehaving lad or adult and the property owner, neighbor or other victim be better or more effective than the  police-court or traditional interventions? In this article, Adam Crawford describes the UK RESPECT programs, use of the ASBO (Anti-Social Behavior Order), the PND (Penalty Order for Disorder) or the ‘deferred’ PND. These tools or outgrowths of restorative justice projects stand in “awkward relation to established modes of crime control.”  

The contracts that grow out of the restorative justice process can be tailored to the “interests, capacities, and needs of the parties and can deter offending by enlisting participants (offender) self-regulation.”  In an annotated essay, Crawford summarizes  UK societal change between the Factory Act of 1833 and the state of society reflects in Neighbours from Hell: the Politics of Behaviour (2003).

The final short contribution by Nils Christie outlines the grown in restorative justice over the past 30 years. Some of the growth is attributed to the anomie in highly industrialized society and the inability of the criminal courts to be more than “machines of mass production.” The bulk of the article consists of warnings associated with this commendable rise of restorative justice. Christie warns of too much professionalism, too much bookkeeping and ‘mediation imperialism.’ 

Restorative justice is a tool and is not designed to replace the courts or sentencing. In addition to wise warnings, Christie advised the true seeker or learner to also study the 2003 Oxford Press publication, Restorative Justice and Criminal Justice: Competing or Reconcilable Paradigms and the 2007 Willan Publishing book Crime, Social Control and Human Rights, by coeditors Down, Rock, Chinkin and Gearty.  

The book offers a quick snapshot of what exists to the reader who  desires to learn more about restorative justice.


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