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Revisiting Informal Justice: Restorative Justice and Democratic Professionalism

Olson, Susan M
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) Law and Society Review. 38(1): 139-176.

Restorative justice is a form of informal justice growing rapidly among criminal justice practitioners. It decenters the focus of criminal justice from the offender breaking a law of the state to the harm caused the victim and community. Resolution is said to come from offenders taking responsibility
and making amends for the harm done and from communities supporting the victim and providing offenders with opportunities and skills to reintegrate as contributing members.
Restorative justice theory largely ignores the role of professionals in the criminal justice process, and yet professionals have played a dominant part in initiating many restorative justice programs. Several theoretical traditions recognize professionals as being important intermediaries between citizens and the state. The theory of democratic professionalism argues that professionals can play crucial roles in increasing and improving democratic participation in public affairs. This article examines two functioning restorative justice programs to flesh out what democratic professionalism
might look like in operationFwhat tasks professionals perform and what citizen involvement means to the professionals. We argue that restorative justice cannot get along without professionals and that democratic professionalism may help restorative justice to avoid some of the problems associated with other approaches to informal justice by increasing true community participation but balancing it with concern for individuals’ rights. (author’s abstract).


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