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Review: Restorative justice today: Practical applications.

July 22, 2013
Katherine S. van Wormer and Lorenn Walker, editors, 2013, Sage Publications , ISBN 978-1-4522-1991-2, Paperback, 255 pages

In the preface the editors offer a sensitive statement that they would be sharing a look at this paradigm shift (R.J.) through powerful stories of ‘seeking the good in people’ and ‘righting a wrong not only for victims but also for offenders and communities.’ The diversity of the contributors is as broad as the commentary on dozens of programs.   The writers from Norway, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, El Salvador, and the United States are attorneys, professors, social workers, program directors, and a physician-anthropologist.  The topical areas within the five broad categories include clergy abuse, juvenile justice, adult corrections, sexual assault, domestic violence, anti-bullying programming and practices related to drug courts, mental health courts, environmental justice and reparations to ‘tribal and racial populations who have been wronged by the society.’  

Its college textbook nature and the commendable use of links to films or DVD’s, bibliographies,  electronic sources or websites is likely to be appreciated by any reader seeking to go further than the summary to be found within each brief chapter. Each chapter concludes with two (just two) critical thinking questions and an alphabetical list of references. Seven of the chapters include boxed readings or highlighted commentary by the editors to enhance the overall merit of a chapter.

As would be expected, the collection opens with the requisite definition of R.J. In just a dozen pages Lorenn Walker offers a springboard for the book. Just what is R.J., how can justice in many arenas be viewed through different lenses, and what are the characteristics of the traditional western justice that does not look at harm to and restoration of those involved. The book begins with a snapshot view of justice delivery in decades past. The core of the book looks into the many flavors of what might or might not actually be labeled as R.J.    This core is interesting and rich due to this diverse application of a justice that may be more healing than the retributive justice seen in many settings decades ago or even now in  many venues. 

To their credit, Walker and von Wormer conclude with articles on future applications and unique essays related to community and national reparation.  Just two to three  decades ago few would have believed that victim centered and overall harm assessing views would be applied in school discipline, prisons, substance abuse courts, and environmental litigation. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (T.R.C.) and similar human rights violation settings (e.g. K.K.K. based racism in Greensboro, North Carolina , Indian Reservation T.R.C. processes in Canada, and World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans in the Western United States)  are unique examples of expanded justice lenses. 

There are no weak segments in this book. It is so current that it makes reference to books or resources pending late 2013 or 2014 publication. This book will be well used in the classroom and will broaden the understanding and thinking of most any reader. As the Minnesota folks who enjoy relaxation and fishing on the 10,000 lakes  might say, this one is a ‘keeper.’


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