Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical & Philosophical Criminology

Reintegrative Shaming: Theory into Practice

Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical & Philosophical Criminology

Reintegrative Shaming: Theory into Practice

Article excerpt


Twenty states have adopted balanced and restorative language in definingthe duties of their juvenile courts which has led to the use of restorative justice practices across the country. In order to fully understand the practice of restorative justice, the theory of reintegrative shaming must be examined. This theory is often seen as an integrated theory combining elements of differential association, social bonds, and labeling theories. Usingstigma, reintegration with family and community, and guilt, Braithwaite argues that what results is a social process which builds consciences as well as informal social controls to stop future wrongdoing. Examples of these reintegrative shaming principles are explained using real restorative justice victim-offender mediations from the East Tennessee area. It is hoped that a clearer understanding of reintegrative shaming and its positive effects will be able to combat the distrust of this form of justice that faces resistance in communities with a strong desire for punitive punishment.

Keywords: reintegrative shaming, restorative justice, victim-offender mediation


The public response to juvenile crime has shifted over time. Following an era of increasingly punitive responses to juvenile crime, observers note a possible return to a more balanced approach and a return to the rehabilitative mission of the juvenile justice system (Bishop & Feld, 2012). Twenty states define the purpose of their juvenile courts using the language of balanced and restorative justice (OJJDP, 2013). These states, including South Carolina, Vermont, and Washington, are actively shifting their focus from the punitive to the restorative by focusing not only on public safety but accountability and skill building to create productive lives. Despite this growth of support for restorative justice, there has been little legislation regarding it. Restorative justice has historically been a grass roots effort to change the way our justice system responds to crime and conflict (Zehr, 2002). While some states do have legislation about restorative justice in some form, these policies are mainly guidelines for what restorative action may look like and how it will be funded instead of a policy stating that all agencies should participate in restorative programming when appropriate. For example, Tennessee, Delaware, Florida, and Arizona are some of the few states with restorative justice policy (Pavelka, 2008). For these states, the statutes provide for funding of restorative justice programmingand provide the right for victims or courts to request mediation services instead of traditional court actions (Pavelka, 2008). The possible actions that these policies permit range from pretrial diversions such as victim-offender mediations to post-sentencing actions such as victim-impact panels.

The ways in which states have attempted to address juvenile delinquency, from the more severe punitive models to the more holistic restorative models, are based in several different criminological theories. For example, research and subsequent policy has traditionally focused on the juvenile's social environment. It has long been suggested that a child is influenced by a combination of factors related to the child's interactions with family and peer groups. Recent research has started to also focus on a child's brain development, which is beginning to show that a child's self-control develops at a slower pace than their desire to experiment with risky behaviors (Bonnie, Johnson, Chemers & Schuck, 2013). Restorative justice and its supporting theory of reintegrative shaming attempts to address each of these major causes of delinquency. This paper describes the theory of reintegrative shaming and its application as a response to delinquent acts.

Theoretical Foundations

The theory of reintegrative shaming is also viewed as an integrative theory. It stems from an interactionist approach called symbolic interactionism that says that crime is caused by the way in which potential offenders and society interacts with each other (Akers & Sellars, 2009). …

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