Social Justice: Theories, Issues, and Movements

By Loretta Capeheart; Dragan Milovanovic | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5

Toward Transformative Justice

RESTORATIVE JUSTICE

For those theorists attempting to develop an alternative to the criminal justice system, restorative justice has provided an alternative vista. But, by itself, as currently constituted, it has raised a number of criticisms, especially from those advocating a transformative justice. Transformative justice theorists seek not only to respond to the immediacy of the conflict or harm but also to situate it in a broader framework addressing structural issues. In so much as restorative justice does not deal with structural issues, it has been accused of being system supporting, be it unknowingly. The glaring question is “Restore to what?” If, for example, structures and a particular form of community organizations reduce or repress the search for self-development and actualization, then, the transformative theorists argue, simply to restore relations to this previous state is by itself contributing to the sustaining of reductive or repressive practices.1

An example of restoration to repression versus transformation to justice may be contained in the reaction to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and much of the southern United States in August of 2005 and beyond. While the hurricane itself was destructive, the flooding that followed the failure of the levy system in New Orleans was perhaps the most injurious force. Also, glaringly harmful and more globally damaging was the abandonment of the city's and region's poor to fend for themselves in the face of these natural and human made disasters.

Restoration following a hurricane typically occurs at the individual level with the replacement of lost goods and housing by insurance, governmental assistance, and/or other individual/group efforts. The restoration of individuals was compounded in the wake of Katrina given the neglect of the levy system and necessity of restoring it to a far better condition in order to assure future reliance. Further, the restoration of trust required far more than the replacement of goods and assurances that the levy system was safe. This recovery effort

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