Influence of Spirituality on Restorative Justice Research Proposal

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Restorative Justice and Religion: A Significant Connection

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An important component of most cultures, religion often impacts the way that a society is structured. Rules for governance, customs, and both formal and informal structure can often be influenced by a society's primary religious beliefs, even if those beliefs are no longer the focus of a society. In the United States, many stores and government branches are still closed on Sunday, an informal policy that was adopted due to Sunday's religious significance for much of the country. Today's United States, however, is full of those from many religions, suggesting that a variety of days could be considered of religious significance. Still, the informal rule from the past holds because of its legacy. Although closing government offices on Sunday is one example of how religious ideas can impact society's structure, this is not the most significant example. Instead, many societal movements and ideologies have their roots in religion and religious practices. Restorative justice is one such ideology. Despite its religious history, however, restorative justice is used liberally today, and is an important concept in the study of criminal justice and other social disciplines. This paper will review Restorative Justice in light of its religious history. That is, by examining the religious history of restorative justice, one can determine that religion has impact the concept in a positive way that can and has been secularized. Through a review or restorative justice and its definition and significance, an exploration of its history, and an assessment of how its religious components have shaped it today, one can conclude that religious influences on the ideology have certainly impacted it, but that those influences were generally positive, growing restorative justice to the concept that is most frequently identified by this term today.

II. Restorative Justice: What is it?

Research Proposal on Influence of Spirituality on Restorative Justice Assignment

An opposition to punitive justice, restorative justice aims to reform criminals for promising reentry into society. Restorative justice can be explained as "a system of legal resolution that involves the victim, offender and community, emphasizes repairing the harm caused when a crime is committed" ("Beyond crime and punishment," 2007). Through this definition, it is easy to see how restorative justice is sociological in nature. Wanting to heal the entire society from crime, restorative justice allows that communal healing to take place through open conversation and activities involving all who were affected by the crime. According to Changing Minds.org, restorative justice is about "putting things back as they should be," by using tactics such as "a straightforward apology" from the criminal to the victim ("Four Types of Justice," 2009). In addition to apologizing, restorative, or corrective justice, often requires the harmer to use actions to "demonstrate that one is truly sorry" ("Four Types of Justice," 2009). Even though restorative justice may require some type of community service action or payment to the victim in order for the offender to demonstrate his or her contrition, it is much different than other types of justice, including distributive, procedural, and retributive justice. These other forms of justice concern themselves with fairness of economics, fairness in procedure, and revenge, respectively ("Four Types of Justice," 2009).

Using restorative justice, criminals are still expected to pay for the crimes that they have committed, but the focus is placed on reform and growth in the criminals and the community, with the goal of reform creating a better society. This type of justice is aimed at teaching, and has been increasingly used in juvenile settings as of late ("Beyond crime and punishment," 2007). In these settings, restorative justice helps the child or teen to understand why their actions were wrong, and to move forward in correcting them. Indeed, victim-offender mediation and other types of restorative justice have been growing increasingly popular. Even schools have begun to use restorative justice programs in their discipline structures ("Beyond crime and punishment," 2007). This current trend has sparked controversy and debate among scholars and students of criminal justice. The Center for Restorative Justice (n.d.) sheds some light on this controversy by arguing that "restorative justice is contentions because it involves rethinking our current criminal justice system, and the social fabric that informs our responses to harm and conflict." Some of the issues that the Center suggests are controversial in this debate include the economic and social issues of recidivism and economic success, as well as the transformation of communities and possible power struggles. While determining whether or not restorative justice works will involve more resources and studies than are currently available, at least one studies has shown "that restorative justice reduced repeat offending and repeat imprisonment, lowered criminal justice costs and gave crime victims greater satisfaction than did conventional justice" ("Beyond crime and punishment," 2007). In order to determine whether or not this type of justice is successful, however, one must have an understanding of its goals. If the goal of restorative justice is empowerment, reduced crime rates, sociological cohesion, or other side effects, different measurements of success will be needed. Thus, restorative justice is a concept that has been given much attention lately, but it is also a concept that requires more tests, theories, research, and writings before it and its implications can be fully understood.

III. The Spiritual Roots of Restorative Justice: A History

One thing that does not remain a mystery regarding restorative justice, however, is how it came to be. In fact, "Restorative justice has roots in the world's religious traditions" ("Beyond crime and punishment," 2007). Richards (2004), however, adds to this list of possible origins by stating that scholars, in their limited discussion of the history of religious practices, have attributed the phenomenon to the Victim's Rights Movement, indigenous justice practices, and religious ideas (pg. 1). Further, Richards addresses the limited history of restorative justice as problematic for two major reasons. First, the debate regarding where the history of restorative justice actually starts has not yet been decided. Second, Richards argues that histories on restorative justice up until this point have largely presented the discipline as "natural," or a "panacean paradigm of criminal justice" (2). Because the authors of these works are trying to make a case for restorative justice, attempting to persuade readers to adopt the point-of-view that restorative justice is a good, if not most superior, method of criminal justice (Richards, 2004, pg. 2), it is easy to believe that this portrait of the history of restorative justice may be skewed for rhetorical purposes.

Despite the fact that the history of restorative justice has been overlooked or possibly skewed in the current reviews of literature, the fact that restorative justice has its roots in spirituality is abundantly clear. Roth (2005) makes a connection between Christianity and restorative justice when he writes, "The good news is that reconciling 'two or more gathered,' forgiving 77 times, and inviting 'both good and bad' to the wedding feast leads to a justice that restores relationships, shares the bounty, and redeems lives." Roth goes on to suggest that Jesus demonstrates a restorative justice that penetrates surface spirituality." But while Christianity has been a focus of some restorative justice studies (Hadley, 2001, pg. 2), the roots of restorative justice can be found in even more world religions. In his book, The Spiritual Roots of Restorative Justice, Michael L. Hadley not only explores how the teachings of most major religious have included restorative justice elements, but also the importance of continuing to monitor the connection between religion and restorative justice today. He explores the spiritual roots of restorative justice across multiple religions, including Buddhism, aboriginal religions, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and Sikhism. Hadley (2001) writes that "the resultant synergy has confirmed what participants suspected at the earliest stages…the conviction that multifaith engagement can make vital contributions to criminal justice reform" (pg. 25). Further, Volona (2000) explains that the word religion actually comes from Latin, meaning, "to bund back together-to restore to unity what is separated" (pg. 5). She goes on to suggest that this etymology is closely linked with the goals of major religions, which are based on bringing humans back to God and the mercy of God. She also argues that other faiths outside of the Judeo-Christian realm are founded upon "the principle of Compassion, which has a similar function of restoring to wholeness in terms of both the individual and the community" (Volona, 2000, pg. 7). To support this, the Volona gives examples from the holy books of several religions. Thus, many great religions have focused on restorative justice in their teachings regarding wrongdoing and its antithesis. Aimed at resolving community conflict, religions encourage those who are wronged to forgive, to meditate, to love despite of the wrongdoing, suggesting that these practices will not only bring healing to both offender and victim, but also that they will bring together a community that can function, setting its sights on higher order issues, such as the essence of humanity, spirituality, and hope.

IV. Spirituality in Restorative Justice Today

While Hadley (2001) certainly seems to suggest that digging deeply into the roots of restorative justice… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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