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Imagining Restorative Justice Beyond Recidivism.

Presser, Lois
June 4, 2015

Source: (2007) Journal of Offender Rehabilitation. 46(1/2):163-176.

This article imagines what restorative justice might be and what it might accomplish, or fail to accomplish, if recidivism reduction were not an objective at all. In imagining a restorative justice that ignores recidivism, a paradox was found. If restorative justice programs are detached from the state, they can be most faithful to their foundational values, yet they also lose the capacity to change state institutions and public attitudes about crime and justice. The distance between restorative justice and state justice feeds the critical edge, the democratizing and humanizing potential of the former. Too much distance means restorative justice cannot transform formal justice. Restorative justice is in some ways more and in some ways less “itself” when it neglects the goal of crime control. Neglecting recidivism may undermine relationships between restorative justice programs and government agencies, insofar as the latter are chiefly concerned with offender management. In short, it is suspected that the more involved different constituencies get with restorative justice, the more they will accept and even appreciate the complexities and paradoxes that result from truly embracing the visual diagrams that depict that balancing of needs: victims, offenders, and communities. There is a power beyond recidivism reduction in restorative justice. While it may help an offender change course and desist from harmful action, it also appears to help victims “desist” from suffering and isolation, and to help communities “desist” from deterioration and apathy. Recidivism is an important objective of restorative justice programs. However, too much attention to recidivism may marginalize basic goals of restorative justice. In this paper, the prospects for restorative justice if recidivism rates of participating offenders were not monitored are speculated. (Abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


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