How [Restorative] Is
Restorative Justice? An
Oppression Theory Critique
In the past two decades, a trend in U.S. jurisprudence known as restorative justice has risen to challenge the two-century supremacy of traditional retributive justice. Unlike retributive proceedings in which the offender is viewed as accountable primarily to the state, a restorative justice proceeding would make the offender accountable primarily to the victim of his/ her offense, to the victim's primary social circle, and to the community. In the ideal restorative justice scenario, a process of facilitated negotiation among the victim, the offender, and community representatives would restore economic, social, and emotional equilibrium to the victim by reparative action made by the offender both to the victim and to the community (e.g., Bazemore, 1996; Bazemore & Umbreit, 1998; Hudson, Galaway, Morris & Maxwell, 1996; Young, 1995; Zehr, 1990).
Undoubtedly, restorative justice represents a paradigm shift in justice philosophy (Van Ness, 1993), offering [an entirely new framework for understanding and responding to crime and victimization within American society] (Umbreit, 1998a, p. 1). As an alternative to the more impersonal proceedings and punishment-oriented sanctions of traditional justice, many believe restorative justice, with its emphasis on human relationships and community building, has greater capacity to [heal [the wounds] and put right the wrongs] of crime (Zehr, 1998).
On the surface, then, restorative justice would appear to be a more participatory, more inclusive, more democratic philosophy of justice. However, despite a more human face, it is also worth noting that the optimistic reception the restorative justice model has received among practitioners and scholars alike originates almost exclusively from a main-