Restorative Justice, Responsive Regulation, and Democratic Governance

Article excerpt

Restorative justice has been a central tradition of justice in most, perhaps all societies prior to the emergence of the modern, central state power with its bureaucratic-professional systems and its emphasis on retribution, deterrence, and, sometimes, rehabilitation. Its revival as a new social movement in modern states offers a new paradigm for addressing the key questions in social work and social welfare of the relation of formal to informal systems of care and control, and of empowerment to coercion. Restorative justice may be defined in terms of process--one whereby all stakeholders come together to resolve how to deal with the aftermath of an offense and its implications for the future--or in terms of its core values--healing rather than hurting, moral learning, community participation and caring, respectful dialogue, forgiveness, responsibility, apology, and setting things right or making amends.

The articles in this issue take as their starting point the recent path-breaking book by renowned Australian scholar John Braithwaite (2002), Restorative Justice and Responsive Regulation. Braithwaite is Professor of Law at Australian National University in Canberra and heads the Regulatory Institutions Network there. He is a business regulatory scholar, sociologist, criminologist, activist, and leading researcher on both restorative justice and responsive regulation, as well as a scholar of democratic theory. In Restorative Justice and Responsive Regulation, Braithwaite synthesizes recent research and conceptual analysis of restorative justice and integrates them with his work on responsive regulation of business. Braithwaite not only demonstrates the superior effectiveness of restoring victims, offenders, and communities compared with punitive practices of modern judicial systems; he also shows how the experience of responsive regulation of business--utilizing a regulatory pyramid to ensure compliance--and restorative justice practices can enrich each other. In the form of family group conferencing, restorative practices have already had an important impact on child welfare and youth justice, both in the United States and in many other countries. The integration of restorative justice and responsive regulation presented by Braithwaite offers an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of this new paradigm and, indeed, achieve greater clarity about the very nature of social work and social welfare. …