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Towards a Systemic Model of Restorative Justice

Dignan, Jim
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. 135-156.

One of the major challenges for any proposed penal reform is to learn from past efforts at penal reform. For no matter how well intentioned, all past reform programs have raised expectations but have also failed in certain, major ways. Jim Dignan offers this advice as a cautionary note with respect to restorative justice advocacy because of the “evangelical and uncriticalâ€? way in which restorative justice is often touted. It is therefore vital, he states, to think freshly and clearly about the way restorative justice is conceptualized, about its role in reforming current penal policies, and about the normative constraints that must be adopted if its reformative potential is to be realized. On these bases, Dignan explores in this essay the scope for a principled alliance between restorative justice advocates and just deserts proponents, the aim being a radical reform of existing criminal justice and penal systems in the interests of victims, offenders, and the wider community. Specifically, Dignan’s argument for this principled alliance lies in the following premises: restorative justice must be concerned as much with outcomes as with processes, restorative justice interventions do constitute a form of punishment; and restorative justice interventions require moral justification and normative constraints.


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