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Book Review: Restoring Justice

by Suleman

Restaurant justice is relatively recent and spans a broad spectrum of sectors, such as schooling, student advancement, political policy and, of course, legislation. Restaurative Justice itself has just been adopted some 40 years ago in the history of law and is one of the newest sectors developing (Van Ness, Powerful et al. 21). So many individuals move into the legal profession will have had very little connection to the theory behind restorative justice – certainly they will have engaged with some of its practices (affirmative action, for instance), but by and large they could be ignorant of the depth of history, theory and practice involved with restorative justice as it relates to the legal field. Solid and Van Ness. Al ‘s excellent novel, “Restoring justice,” seeks to mend this divide and offer its readers firm encouragement to ideals of restorative justice, so that they can strive to focus on them as appropriate. In only two hundred and fifty words, the present book presents the readers with an appreciation of the logic for the need for restore justice, the theoretical basis of restorative justice, a past of historic justice, the prospect of restore justice. The most effective feature is its simplicity to individuals with little familiarity in restorative justice – it is very simple to read and comprehend, and deeply supports that restorative justice is a vital component of the law’s development, research and implementation.

One of the most interesting aspects of this book is the fundamental assumption of skepticism it assumes on the part of its reader – knowing that many people reading this work may not have engaged with restorative justice previously in their lives, this book goes out of its way convince the reader of the necessity of its subject. While most law books will give a brief description of why the subject is important in the introduction, this work commits its first sixty pages, fully a quarter of its length, to ensuring that its readers believe that the subject it treats is important. At the end, the regeneration of justice begins at the basic level of inequality – ‘the examples’ – intervention (Van Ness, Powerful etal. 2). This patterned thinking is defined as a mechanism by which people are able to understand the massive amount of data that they encounter over the course of a length of time, without which it would be impossible to function (4). The problem, however, is that the planned information does not fit within the pattern, but blocks crucial analysis of new information (5). Although the authors use this definition for the evolution of legal systems, it describes the way in which the process of law originated first (as a way of promulgating social security for everyone in society and compensating the victims of crime and their families) and then evolved into a kind of law we see today which focuses primarily on the preservation of power and privilege.

Book Review: Restoring Justice

This study is very useful to understand why restorative justice is important to an equal practise of law – that law-makers have always created impossible circumstances that further exploit people and our ways of thinking are so defined by thought patterns that have been primarily influenced by our legal system that we are concerned. Moreover, author’s descriptions of thought models help readers understand how quickly negative behaviours which involve restorative justice – the devaluation and dehumanisation of people – can be consolidated based on race or class, for instance, have been so thoroughly engrained in our society through centuries of patterns of thought which assume lower class or non-white people to be worth less, that without actively combating those ideas, through, for instance, restorative justice, it is impossible to actually have a fair and just legal system.

The rest of the introductory section goes on to further explain the history of restorative justice, and the reasons that restorative justice is more successful than other modes of justice.  The explanation of the history of restorative justice is somewhat lacking – mostly tracking uses of the term and its development to mean what it currently does today, but to their credit, the authors note this issue – saying that a rigorous history of restorative justice has never been made (21).

The rest of this work is an excellent description of the underpinnings of restorative justice theory, describing the three most important moments in engagement with restorative justice – the encounter, where the need for restorative justice becomes apparent, amends, where the restorative aspect of restorative justice takes place, and reintegration, where the two sides of a restorative justice situation are brought together again with a healed and hopefully more respectful relationship.  It finally closes with a detailed description  of the challenges posed by enacting restorative justice – challenges such as organizing, convincing others of the needs of restorative justice, fighting against resistance and so on.  These sections all accomplish their goals well, but are not necessarily as interesting or important as the first part which convinces the reader of the need for restorative justice.

Unlike many law texts which simply outline how one engages with a  certain issue, the processes (both in thought and law) that need to take place and so on, Restoring Justice acts as a full throated apologia for restorative justice, arguing forcefully for the needs of enacting restorative justice at many levels of the law and of social structures. The genius of the work rests in the fact that, rather than assuming a sympathetic reader, it assumes a skeptical one, and as such is able to convince anyone for the need for restorative justice, rather than simply acting as a guidebook for those already baptized into the ideals of activism and social justice.

Works Cited
  • Van Ness, Daniel W and Karen Heetderks Strong. Restoring Justice: and Introduction to Restorative Justice.  Anderson: New York. 2010. Print.

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