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Does Restorative Justice Challenge Systemic Injustices?

Lofton, Bonnie Price
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) In, Howard Zehr and Barb Toews, eds., Critical Issues in Restorative Justice. Monsey, New York and Cullompton, Devon, UK: Criminal Justice Press and Willan Publishing. Pp. 377-385.

While Bonnie Price Lofton clearly sees much merit in restorative justice and views it as a significant improvement over the legalistic, retributive approach used by most Western court systems, she also believes there are serious limitations to restorative justice. Specifically, restorative justice is limited in four ways. (1) It fails to address the socio-economic roots of crime. (2) It accepts the status quo’s definition of crime as wrongdoing between individuals; thus it fails to address the larger, more destructive systemic crimes. (3) It accepts the status quo’s simplistic labels and descriptions of individuals involved in and affected by crime as ‘offenders’ and ‘victims’. (4) It is so time-consuming that it offers too little for too large a problem. Lofton discusses these four limitations, and she proposes ways to move beyond restorative justice concepts to address systemic injustice in the interests of pursuing a more just social order.


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