17. Restorative, Transformative Justice

17.1 Restorative Justice: A Paradigm Shift

Dr. Alana Marie Abramson and Melissa Leanne Roberts, M.A.

Restorative justice has become a social movement that impacts the way we understand and respond to crime and conflict in diverse communities throughout the world. – (Umbriet et al., 2005, p. 254)

Since the 1970s, restorative justice has gained tremendous momentum in Canada as an alternative or addition to contemporary criminal justice. Restorative justice approaches are informed by values, principles, and practices from a variety of sources including Indigenous ways of knowing, faith-based traditions, peacemaking criminology, the Victims’ Rights Movement, penal abolition, and community justice initiatives. With a primary focus on healing people and relationships, restorative justice promotes meaningful accountability, collaborative dialogue, and the empowerment of offenders, victims, and communities.  Restorative justice falls within the field of criminology (see 10 Critical Criminology) called critical criminology and is related to transformative justice which highlights the essential need to change social structures that perpetuate injustice and inequality.

Howard Zehr is a criminology affectionately known in the field as the “grandfather of restorative justice”. Zehr argues that the retributive justice construct requires a new “lens” given the widespread dysfunction and crisis in the current criminal justice system. Rethinking is required in relation to the legal system as well as institutions in which punishment and retribution prevail as methods used to regulate social behaviour. Zehr (1990) advocates a paradigm shift to inform and shape what is done within criminal justice and in “areas where we have more control such as out families, churches, and daily lives” (p. 227). The restorative justice paradigm is inclusive, has a problem-solving focus, and involves accountability, dialogue, and reparation in the pursuit of healing and righting relationships (Zehr, 1990). As a paradigm, then, restorative justice challenges existing justice structures and advocates for a different approach to conflict. Another way to think about a paradigm is as a lens through which to see the world and in the case of restorative transformative justice, a different way to see conflict, harm, and punishment.



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Introduction to Criminology Copyright © 2023 by Dr. Alana Marie Abramson and Melissa Leanne Roberts, M.A. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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