Is Restorative justice in domestic violence cases justice denied?

14 January 2013

Restorative justice is often a very good way to deal with crime, and it's a method that any criminal justice system could benefit from using. But it's not appropriate in every case – and it's especially troubling to see it used in domestic violence cases.

Thanks to a long feature in last weekend's New York Times Magazine, the concept of restorative justice is getting some much-needed attention. The practise is centered on the idea that justice should involve restoration and healing, instead of simply punishment.

The US has the largest prison system in the world, and we institute some of the harshest and longest punishments. Rather than seeing crime as a wrong committed against the state, the restorative justice model positions crime as an act committed against an individual and a community. Instead of simply meting out a punishment for the crime, the restorative justice model works with the victim, the community and the perpetrator to assess the damage done and come to an agreement on how the victim and community can be made whole.

It's not a widely-used process, but it's a good one. The victim's needs are centered; the perpetrator doesn't get the vindication of feeling victimized and there's an accountability aspect and a personalization of the crime that seems to lead to lower recidivism rates. It would be wonderful to see restorative justice used more widely in addressing non-violent crime.

But violent crime – and, particularly, intimate partner violence – is another story. While it's certainly not impossible to use a restorative justice model for those crimes, it's trickier territory.

Read the full story @ The Guardian Comment is free