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Some Sociological Reflections on Restorative Justice

Bottoms, Anthony
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) In, Andrew von Hirsch, et. al., eds., Restorative Justice and Criminal Justice: Competing or Reconcilable Paradigms? Oxford and Portland, Orgeon: Hart Publishing. Pp. 79-114.

Andrew Bottoms takes as his subject in this paper two statements about restorative justice by John Braithwaite. Braithwaite has written that restorative justice has been the dominant model of criminal justice throughout most of human history for all the peoples of the world. He has also written that informal justice must be about restoring victims, offenders, and communities if it is to be restorative justice. Bottoms characterizes these comments as aphorisms: they are concise and pithy; they express a truth. Yet, says Bottoms, the statements need considerable contextualization before they can be fully understood. Moreover, the fact that they express a truth does not mean they express the whole truth. With all of this in mind, Bottoms’s paper is in a sense an elaboration of and commentary on Braithwaite’s two aphorisms. Toward these ends, Bottoms examines Nils Christie’s 1977 paper on “Conflicts as Property,â€? the status of the ideas and values of pre-modern societies in restorative justice theory, the preference for civil methods of dispute resolution over criminal ones, the social mechanisms of restorative justice, and the emergence and application of restorative justice in contemporary societies.


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