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Values and Principles in the Practice of Restorative Justice.

Zehr, Howard
June 4, 2015

Source: (2006) Paper presented at Introduction of restorative justice in Ukraine: Results & Perspectives International Conference, Kiev, April 2006.

Restorative justice has come a long way since the first experiments with victim-offender encounters in
North America in the 1970s. The trickle has now become a river, branching out into many directions we never
envisioned in those early days: situations of severe violence, school discipline, workplace conflicts and
grievances, even societal-level conflicts and wrongs, to name just a few. In addition to victim offender
mediation, “new” models of practice have emerged including family group conferences and circle processes. In
the Ukraine, victim offender mediation is relatively new but the restorative justice stream is flowing here as well.
Overall, charting the restorative justice river is both hopeful and inspiring.
But the rapid rise and spread of this river also causes concerns. The example of past criminal justice
reforms, at least in the United States, sends out warning signals. So many so-called reforms have ended up
being something different than what the designers intended. So often they been co-opted into something else,
sometimes creating situations as bad or worse than those they were intended to improve. The alternatives to
prison movement of the 1970-80s is but one example: instead of reducing reliance on prisons, the movement
expanded the state’s net of punishment and control. In the United States, this has resulted in unprecedented
numbers of people, especially members of minority groups, under the control of the criminal justice system. (excerpt)


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