Academic journal article British Journal of Community Justice

An Introduction to Restorative Justice Practices in Taiwan

Academic journal article British Journal of Community Justice

An Introduction to Restorative Justice Practices in Taiwan

Article excerpt


Restorative Justice is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of victims and offenders, instead of satisfying abstract legal principles or punishing the offender. Sherman (2003:11) argues that restorative justice is 'any means that can produce reconciliation between victims, offenders and their supporters, minimising anger and leaving all satisfied that they have been treated fairly while justice has been done'.

Restorative justice is neither a new nor an innovative criminal justice concept. Indeed, the principles which underpin restorative justice have existed for millenniums and have been used as a dominant model in criminal justice systems throughout most of human history and for perhaps all the world's people (Braithwaite, 2002; Sheu et al., 2006). Before the rise of nation-states in Europe, the restorative justice model was practiced widely in Germanic and Mediterranean tribes. However, it was decisively set aside with the Norman Conquest of much of Europe at the end of the Dark Ages. Since then, the idea of crime has transformed from injurious to persons into matters of fealty to a felony against the king (Braithwaite, 2002; Sherman, 2003; Weitekamp, 1989).

Restorative justice was rekindled in the West with the establishment of an experimental victim-offender reconciliation programme in 1974 in Canada, and then spread to many countries, including Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and the United States (Braithwaite, 2002:8). Compared with non-restorative approaches (i.e. incarceration, probation, court-order restitution etc.), Latimer et al. (2005:138) found that 'restorative justice programmes are a more effective method of improving victim and/or offender satisfaction, increasing offender compliance with restitution, and decreasing the recidivism of offenders'. There has always been a struggle between restorative justice and retributive justice in Taiwan. Although we can see some criminal justice programmes are restorative rather than retributive (i.e. mediation), retributive justice remains an important role in the past few decades (Sheu, 2003). To some extent, we can say that the role of restorative justice has been marginalised to the degree that it has become ritualised in the practice of Taiwanese criminal justice. However, over the past ten years, restorative justice has been given resurgence in Taiwan and it has now become a mainstream feature of the criminal justice system.

This paper will introduce the transformation of the Taiwanese criminal justice system from a retributive justice model to a restorative justice model and it will examine the restorative justice programmes and practices currently applying in Taiwan, including mediation, deferred prosecution for adults, and the new restorative justice pilot programme *.

The development and practice of restorative justice in Taiwan

Restorative justice was rekindled in Taiwan in the late 1990s. Influenced by a world wide atmosphere supporting a polarised approach to criminal policy, in 1997 the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) of Taiwan organised a committee to review the criminal policy which applied at that period of time. In 1999, and based on the results of that review, the White Book on Prosecution Reform was published by the MOJ. In the White Book, the MOJ proposed three urgent issues which needed to be addressed: crimes were becoming more serious, limitations were being imposed on judicial resources and the prison system was becoming overloaded. MOJ argued that the best way to solve these three critical issues was to establish a polarised approach to its criminal policies with both punishment and leniency criminal policies coexisting (Ministry of Justice, 1999).

The aim of the polarised approach to criminal policy, according to the White Book, was to adopt both a lenient and harsh approach to criminal activity. MOJ suggested that those criminals who committed serious crimes and who were at a high-risk of committing more crimes should be treated strictly by giving them their 'just desert'. …

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