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Implementing Restorative Justice by “Groping Along”: A Case Study in Program Evolutionary Implementation

Lemley, Ellen C
June 4, 2015

Source: (2002) The Justice System Journal. 23(2):157-190.

Gaining increasing support from criminal justice practitioners and the attention of researchers is the new policy model known as restorative justice. Restorative justice views crime as an offense against people and relationships creating an obligation to make things right. This obligation created by crime makes the active and direct participation of victims, offenders, and communities essential. Due to its infancy, restorative justice’s definition, central theoretical concepts, and status as a theory has been vague. In order to examine how the core theoretical concepts of restorative justice played a role in the project’s evolution, the study began with a look at the evolution of the program in Spokane, Washington, used in the analysis. A demonstration project was created with funding received from the Washington State Law and Justice Advisory Council. The original plan or formula for the program included taking nonviolent offenders out of the system while achieving the primary aims of restorative justice and repairing harm, reintegrating offenders, and involving the community, offender, and victims in the process. However, conflict arose between agencies and actors, specifically the program prosecutor, and the original plan failed to be implemented. While policy ambiguity doomed the original project, policy ambiguity also permitted the program prosecutor to overcome resistance and move the program closer to its original design. The original plan was seen as a radical change in the system. All respondents agreed that the strategy presented by the program prosecutor worked and allowed multiple changes in the program that originally encountered great resistance. While policy and program ambiguity produced conflict and other dysfunctions, the same ambiguity permitted the program prosecutor to overcome the problems by employing strategies and groping along. Abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


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