Back to RJ Archive

Restorative justice, forgiveness, and victims of crime

November 7, 2010

Additionally, rather than the understanding of forgiveness to which many add the concept of forgetting, Trudy Govier (2002, p. 61) argues that “The memories that accompany forgiveness will be memories that exclude resentment and allow us to ‘let go’ while retaining the knowledge that these things were done, and they were wrong.”

As Hannah Arendt (1998, pp. 240–241) argues, “forgiveness is the exact opposite of vengeance, which acts in the form of re-acting against an original trespassing…[it] is the only reaction which does not merely re-act but acts anew and unexpectedly, unconditioned by the act which provoked it and therefore freeing from its consequences both the one who forgives and the one who is forgiven.” On my reading, then, it is important to forgive both for one’s own good and in order to embrace the idea of restorative – rather than retributive – justice.

In the end, my sense is that if victims are unwilling or unable to begin the process of forgiving offenders, then a restorative approach to justice – with its emphasis on “noncustodial settlements” and “peacemaking [rather] than punishment” (Cayley 1998, p. 10) – will likely be seen as benefiting offenders at the expense of victims, hardly seeming to victims like justice at all.

Read the whole entry.


Blog PostCourtsForgivenessPrisonsRJ OfficeVictim Support
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