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How Large Should the Restorative Justice ‘Tent’ Be?

Sharpe, Susan
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. 17-31.

With dramatic growth in recent years in restorative justice, the diversity of forms and directions evidences exploration, refinement and responsiveness to local circumstances. This diversity enriches the field and infuses energy into the development of good practice. At the same time, the extent of diversity raises the question of consensus on what restorative justice is and what kinds of practice it includes. How wide a range of activity can there be and still have a meaningful sense of what restorative justice is and is not? For those within restorative justice and those outside it, what constitutes some ideas and practices as restorative justice and some ideas and practices as not restorative justice? Similarly, what elements, qualities, and aims make a program or process more or less truly restorative? It is in these ways that Susan Sharpe asks how large the restorative justice “tentâ€? can be. To explore this, she discusses the issue of what agreement exists in restorative justice circles on key perspectives. Then upon this basis, she reflects on what makes a program restorative and what makes it justice, with particular emphasis on a social contract theory of restorative justice.


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