Positive and Negative Aspects of Restorative Justice

The key to forgiveness is the refusal to seek revenge

The article begins with an anecdote about Jo Berry and her forgiveness for her father’s killer, ultimately depicting retributive justice in a negative light. Patrick Magee took Berry’s father away from her, yet Berry was able to eventually forgive him. Berry understood that “the instinct for revenge can easily become a betrayal of the future.” She understands that in order to find peace she must forgive. The topic of forgiveness is examined by the film Beyond Right and Wrong, a documentary highlighted in the article, and is used to make a case for restorative justice as a plausible alternative to retributive justice. Columnist Giles Fraser, a priest in London, explains that retributive justice cannot work if peace is the goal. Fraser mentions that the retributive model “can easily serve to perpetuate violence and hatred,” instead of helping to heal. This critical look at retributive justice in Europe sheds a positive light on restorative justice, where the result is peace instead of cyclical violence.

Fraser, Giles. “The key to forgiveness is the refusal to seek revenge.” The Guardian. United Kingdom: Guardian News and Media, 8 February 2013. Web. June 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/uk/belief/2013/feb/08/key-forgiveness-refusal-seek-revenge>.


The Limits of Restorative Justice

Arlène Gaudreault, president and founding member of the Quebec Victims Advocacy Association, wrote this paper in 2005 to “present some of the reasons why [restorative justice] is not immediately accepted as an answer to all crimes.” Though it was written almost ten years ago, the information still holds true. Although it promotes healing and forgiveness, restorative justice is not suitable for all crimes. Gaudreault begins by introducing a timeline of restorative practices in Canada, mentioning that Quebec has “felt less of a need” to move toward restorative justice. This is due to the fact that in Canada restorative justice is often associated with faith groups, thus leading to reservations in Quebec about enacting these practices. She then mentions various positive aspects of restorative justice before highlighting problems with the practice. She raises questions such as, “Is conversation always desired?,” or in the case of violent crimes where a large proportion of victims know the offenders, “Why should this relationship be preserved?” While studies show that many victims are willing to meet with the offender, a significant number of victims refuse to participate because they feel uncomfortable or that the process is not “worth the trouble.” The paper exhibits how restorative justice is continually being built and examined, and reinforces the idea that in order to embrace this method, victims must be placed “at the forefront.”

Gaudreault, Arlène. “The Limits of Restorative Justice.” École Nationale de la Magistrature. Paris: 2005. Web. July 2014. <http://www.victimsweek.gc.ca/symp-colloque/past-passe/2009/presentation/pdfs/restorative_justice.pdf>.


Violent offenders avoid courts with soft on the street justice

Tom Whitehead focuses on the negative aspects of restorative justice, or “community resolution,” making sure to explain why the process “should not be used for serious crimes.” He highlights that “[the offenders] do not go before a court and they are not given a criminal record,” which resonates with many people as being wrong and without justice. Whitehead works as a security editor for The Daily Telegraph, where he covers issues relating to crime, terrorism, and identity policies. This work has led him to form a strong opinion on criminal justice. In the article, he refers to GBH and ABH, which stand for grievous bodily harm and actual bodily harm, respectively. Whitehead speaks with Yvette Cooper, a British Labor Party politician who is a Member of Parliament, about the “massive increase in the number of serious and violent crimes dealt with just by community resolution.” Overall, the author holds that restorative justice is not the correct response to certain forms of violence, and should not be used to keep offenders out of jail.

Whitehead, Tom. “Violent offenders avoid courts with soft on the street justice.” The Telegraph. United Kingdom: Telegraph Media Group, 30 April 2013. Web. July 2014. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/10025860/Violent-offenders-avoid-courts-with-soft-on-the-street-justice.html>.


Restorative justice in domestic violence cases is justice denied

“As someone who believes in prison reform, social justice, and human rights,” Jill Filipovic “believe[s] deeply and strongly that people are capable of radical, transformative change.” She understands that “restorative justice can, in many circumstances, help” start that change. But after years of covering heartbreaking stories at Feministe, a feminist newspaper, Filipovic also knows that society must change in order for restorative justice to work in situations involving “intimate violence.” In this piece, she responds to an article on domestic violence published in The New York Times titled, “Can Forgiveness Play a Role in Criminal Justice?” Though the topic of domestic abuse has not yet been highlighted in this chapter, this topic is especially important because people often refer to it to explain why restorative justice can be a damaging process. Filipovic explains, “While it’s certainly not impossible to use a restorative justice model for [intimate partner violence], it’s trickier territory.” Even though this piece explains some downfalls, it ends on a hopeful note — that as society changes and restorative practices broaden, perhaps one day forgiveness can be used with any case.

Filipovic, Jill. “Restorative justice in domestic violence cases is justice denied.” The Guardian. United States: Guardian News and Media, 12 January 2013. Web. July 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/12/restorative-justice-domestic-violence>.

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