Restorative Justice: Theories and Practices of Moral Imagination

Restorative Justice: Theories and Practices of Moral Imagination

Restorative Justice: Theories and Practices of Moral Imagination

Restorative Justice: Theories and Practices of Moral Imagination

Synopsis

Criminal and juvenile justice systems in the United States are in crisis. One response to this crisis has been restorative justice, in which victims, offenders, and community members meet to reach an agreement about how to repair the harm caused by crime.

Levad explores the moral imagination of restorative justice as an alternative framework for understanding and responding to crime, drawing together philosophical virtue ethics inspired by Aristotle's discussion of equity as the highest form of justice that requires vivid and expansive moral imagining and an ethnography of restorative justice programs. Levad maintains that because participants in restorative justice practices become adept at vivid and expansive moral imagining, they are better able to realize justice and equity in response to particular cases. She concludes that further institutionalization of restorative justice may help answer some aspects of crises in our criminal and juvenile justice systems.

Excerpt

[M]oral change for the better happens, if at all, slowly, as new modes
of outlook (metaphor) and new desires come into being. Sudden
conversions and dramatic new starts can be significant if a new
external regime can be established, which then gradually assists the
inward change, which cannot happen all at once, upon its way….
One escapes (often) from really seductive temptation, not by a
sudden violent inward “act of will” which redirects the character, but
by an external change such as literally running away, making
something impossible, winning time to develop other attachments, to
imagine how things might be different
.

Iris Murdoch
Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals
(Penguin Books 1992: 330-331)

Criminal justice systems in the United States are in crisis. Currently over 7.3 million adults in the U.S. are under some form of supervision, including probation, jail, prison, and parole, by state, local, or federal criminal justice systems. At midyear 2009, nearly 1.6

Heather C. West, “Prison Inmates at Midyear 2009—Statistical Tables,” Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, posted June 2010, http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/pim09st.pdf (accessed on July 21, 2010). in what follows, I draw on statistics that highlight the plight of prison and jail inmates. However, a larger proportion of the population of the United States experiences criminal justice systems through probation or parole. When we see statistics about incarceration rates, we really see only the proverbial tip of the iceberg of criminal justice systems.

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