Back to RJ Archive

Participants’ chosen words: a response to ‘Words on words.’

Shapland, Joanna
June 4, 2015

Source: (2013) Restorative Justice: An International Journal. 1(1):62-69.

Words are indeed important, whether in the context of conflict resolution or in any other. As TS Eliot (1962) noted when writing about cats, words are powerful, because they name beings, embody values, conjure up associations with the past, set paths for the future. Nils Christie is right to question and explore the words being used concerning possibilities for handling conflicts. He is also right to demand that we notice how particular terms are being preferred, or alternatives closed off, so that we are moving, possibly unconsciously, down one particular path in conflict resolution. However, I would argue that he himself is setting up and preferring another particular path, embodying its own values and ideology, and that thereby he is ignoring one of the key strengths and defining characteristics of restorative justice — that is for participants in restorative justice to choose the words and thereby develop the means for resolving the conflict. Of course, not every word, or deed, can be permitted or encouraged in such dispute resolution — it is supposed to be dispute resolution, not dispute aggravation or a stand-up fight — but we need to look very carefully at the credentials of any outside defining framework used to encapsulate the process or outcomes. In this brief response, I shall look at the implicit framework that Nils seems to be using, at how this relates to the nature of restorative justice, and at what kinds of defining frameworks we may wish to use. (excerpt)


Support the cause

We've Been Restoring Justice for More Than 40 Years

Your donation helps Prison Fellowship International repair the harm caused by crime by emphasizing accountability, forgiveness, and making amends for prisoners and those affected by their actions. When victims, offenders, and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results are transformational.

Donate Now