Criminal Justice 2008

What is restorative justice?

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Breton, D. and Lehman, S. (2001) "The Mystic Heart of Justice: Restoring Wholeness in a Broken World"

Uploaded at: 2010. 02. 27.


West Chester Pennsylvania, Chrysalis Books, 321 p.

Breton and Lehman explore the traditional philosophical definitions of justice, and propose an alternative understanding. Leaning heavily on indigenous and spiritualist traditions as well as the philosophy of Socrates and Plato, they suggest a holistic model of justice that informs everyday life and relationships at all levels. For Breton and Lehman, a society's understanding of justice impacts it in many ways, with the criminal justice system being only one example. This understanding of justice informs the making of life decisions, building of relationships, designing of societal structures.  For this reason, the philosophy used to understand justice has a much larger impact than designing the criminal justice system. 

Breton and Lehman describe a system that would “support what is ours to do”. Restorative justice is described as a creative process opening possibilities for understanding and healing. By considering the context surrounding a crime (or any conflict) and allowing the affected parties to reach an understanding of each other, this model opens the door toward healing of trauma and the creation of a more just society.  

The authors build their justice model on the ideas of change and interconnectedness, on the nature of system processes instead of individualistic rewards-punishments.  They summarize doing justice in the following four statements: 1. We do justice to ourselves by engaging our whole being, outer and inner, seen and unseen; 2. We do justice to others by honouring their whole being, our connectedness to them, and our whole mutual-blessings dynamics; 3. We do justice to our communities and society by giving them what is ours to give; and 4. We do justice to justice itself by no longer reducing it to external reward-punishment terms, instead letting it operate as a force for soul, transformation, happiness, and good.

Source: Vanspauwen, K., Robert, L., Aertsen, I., Parmentier, S. (2003), Restorative Justice and Restorative Detention. A selected and annotated bibliography. Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Faculteit Rechtsgeleerdheid, Onderzoeksgroep Penologie en Victimologie.

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