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Restorative Justice and Civic Accountability for Punishment

Dzur, Albert W
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) Polity. 36(1): 3-22.

Restorative justice is a normative theory and a reform movement in criminal justice that raises pressing questions for democratic theory. This paper draws attention to the core, democratic, values of restorative justice theory and practice. It argues that what is distinctive and appealing about restorative justice is not that it “restores” rather than “punishes,” but that it attempts to make an inherently coercive process more consensual, transparent, constructive, and communicative. In addition to these substantive and procedural values, restorative justice offers a picture of how a democracy might become more accountable for punishment. This paper argues that the possibilities it offers citizens for understanding and owning up to the punishment that is meted out on their behalf are central to restorative justice as a normative theory. Concerns about mob justice, partiality, and disproportional sentencing are naturally raised by attempts to involve more lay people in deliberations at the sentencing stage, however. The sort of civic accountability I argue is present in restorative justice does not need to come at the cost of key substantive and procedural criminal justice values. Author’s abstract.


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