Back to RJ Archive

“The Function of Forgiveness in the Criminal Justice System.”

Gehm, John R
June 4, 2015

Source: (1992) In: H. Messmer and H.-U. Otto (eds.), Restorative Justice on Trial: Pitfalls and Potentials of Victim-Offender Mediation: International Research Perspectives. Dordrecht, NETH: Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 541-550.

Traditional functions of the criminal justice system typically include deterrence, incapacitation, “just deserts,” or rehabilitation. Exploring linkages between the idea of “restorative justice” with existing research on the psychology and benefits of forgiveness, the author examines the role that forgiveness might play in the emotional and social well-being of both individuals and communities victimized by crime. By incorporating rituals and opportunities for forgiveness in the criminal justice system, an essentially psychotherapeutic tool utilized at the individual level has the potential for use at the community level as a powerful collective tool. Such an expansion can be argued on functional as well as ethical grounds.


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