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Restorative Justice Conferencing and the Ethic of Care

Barton, Charles
June 4, 2015

Source: (1999) Ethics and Justice: An interdisciplinary public affairs journal. 2 (2).

Restorative Justice Conferencing is a relatively new response to wrongdoing and crime. In a restorative justice conference offenders meet their victims in the company of their respective communities of support and care (typically their family and close friends) to discuss what happened, consider the causes and the consequences of the incident in question, and work out a fair and satisfactory way of repairing the harm through consensus decision making. Governments and communities are introducing the practice with increasing frequency in an attempt to find constructive solutions and resolutions to anti-social behaviour. Through such initiatives, conferencing is quickly becoming a significant and recognised alternative disputes resolution tool both within and outside the criminal justice system.

The authors identify this novel but practical approach to the administration of criminal justice as a clear instantiation of an equally novel development in contemporary feminist ethical theory, the ethic of care. We start by contrasting the ethic of care with the ethic of justice. Following this they correlate the two ethics with two corresponding operational models of criminal justice: restorative justice conferencing and court processing, respectively. Finally, they raise a number of points of contrast between the ethic of care and the ethic of justice to show how the key characteristics of these two ethical paradigms are present in conferencing and court processing, respectively.


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