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The cultural context of restorative justice: Journeys though our cultural forests to a well-spring of healing.

Hamlin, Jack B.
June 4, 2015

Source: (2012) International Journal for the Semiotics of Law. Published onlien DOI 10.1007/s11196-012-9295-4

In the field of Conflict Transformation, Restorative Justice (RJ) is often
perceived as a transformative process focused on healing relationships after a
specific harm. The parties considered in a RJ setting are those harmed, those
responsible and the community impacted. This is particularly true in the field of
criminal and transitional justice, and in an extended and spiritual view, there is
reconciliation with the parties and God. Despite cultural differences, RJ theory and
concepts have been accepted favorably in the many countries. From a viewpoint
focused on methodology and process, however, cultural differences have a significant
effect for implementation. For example, important concepts such as control,
choice, harm, responsibility, apology, shame, reconciliation and forgiveness vary
greatly in the manner in which they are perceived from culture to culture and may
create obstacles for successful implementation of a successful process when one
culture’s process and definitions are forced upon another. Therefore, promotional
factors (i.e., culture and religion) and the implication of semiotics (cultural definition
or meaning) are an absolute consideration in developing a RJ process within a
particular culture. This paper discusses the cultural differences between the United
States and Japan with regard to semiotic obstacles in the implementation of a RJ
model in the Japanese criminal justice system. While the exploration of cultural
differences, particularly between the United States and Japan is not new and has
been the focus of many disciplines, little has been considered regarding the
assimilation and implementation of a Western RJ model into the Eastern culture of
Japan. In sum, is an attempt to clarify and integrate the effects of cultural differences
for some factors (i.e., Control/Choice, Harm, Apology, Responsibility, Shame, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation) as they apply to a RJ based reconciliation
process focused in Semiotics, Social psychology and the Sociology of law as they
apply to the United States and Japan. (authors’ abstract)


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