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To reform or to abolish? Christian perspectives on punishment, prison, and restorative justice.

Ballot, Jordan J.
June 4, 2015

Source: (2008) Ave Maria Law Review. 6(2):481ff.

In this Essay, I will attempt to fill in a gap in preceding studies of restorative justice by paying special attention to the religious, most specifically to the Christian, perspectives on restorative justice. I will show that it is more accurate to speak of a plurality of restorative justice movements than of a unified and univocal restorative justice movement, particularly with respect to the variety of Christian approaches. (7) In delineating the various Christian perspectives on restorative justice, I will use as a primary litmus test the various figures’ attitudes toward government coercion and punishment, most particularly with regard to incarceration, detention, and imprisonment. Attitudes toward prison provide an excellent way to map out the restorative justice landscape. Other types of punishment, such as the death penalty, are less helpful in getting at the crux of the disagreements and distinctive elements of each position, simply because there is so much agreement about the non-restorative nature of such sanctions. An expression representative of the general consensus is given by Howard Zehr: “‘Restorative’ has become such a popular term that many acts and efforts are being labeled ‘restorative,’ but in fact they are not. Some of these might be rescued. Others cannot. The death penalty, which causes additional and irreparable harm, is one of the latter.” (8) Imprisonment can be seen both as the most serious regular form of non-capital punishment and as the factor that undergirds the efficacy of the entire criminal justice system, and therefore makes a most useful point of reference. (excerpt)


AbstractLiving Restoratively
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