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What is the Role of Community in Restorative Justice Theory and Practice?

McCold, Paul
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) In, Howard Zehr and Barb Toews, eds., Critical Issues in Restorative Justice. Monsey, New York and Cullompton, Devon, UK: Criminal Justice Press and Willan Publishing. Pp. 155-171.

One of the greatest challenges facing restorative justice, claims Paul McCold, is to define the role of ‘community’ in theory and practice. The idea of community can evoke many possible meanings and referents. It can signify a local neighborhood, a set of nations, a group of people with some common interest or occupation, and more. In restorative justice usage, the word ‘community’ can point to a ‘macro-community,’ such as an ethnic group or society in general. Or, it can indicate a ‘micro-community,’ such as a victim’s or offender’s family members, friends, and immediate neighbors. The macro-community and micro-community are different populations with different needs. Indeed, McCold says, these two perceptions of community present restorative justice with an apparent conflict of interests. Can restorative justice meet the needs of both? McCold answers this question in the affirmative by presenting a needs-based theory of restorative justice that focuses on means rather than ends or outcomes with respect to restorative processes.


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