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The role of apology in restorative justice from victims’ and offenders’ perspectives

McNamara, Marilyn R
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) Paper presented at the Sixth International Conference On Restorative Justice. Centre for Restorative Justice. 1-4 June. Vancouver BC. Downloaded 21 August 2003.

In restorative justice (RJ) crime is viewed as a conflict between individuals that results in harm to individuals and communities. Victims, offenders, and community members come together in a RJ process to repair the harm and restore peace. An offenders’ offer of an apology and a victims’ acceptance of the apology can promote this restorative process. An apology can be, in its simplest form, a polite expression of “I’m sorryâ€? for a minor social transgression. Past research has shown an apology needs to be in balance with the harm done. If the harm is great, the apology must be comprehensive to be accepted. In particular, an apology should be an expression of responsibility, remorse, reparation, and forbearance. We present a conceptual model illustrating the role of apology and empathy in the restorative justice process. We examine victims’ and offenders’ perceptions of effective apologies, and measure the effect of an offer and acceptance of apology on victims’ healing and offenders’ rehabilitation. Finally, we discuss the role of empathy in offering and accepting apologies. The present analysis has implications for restorative justice theory and practice.


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