Sunday, December 27, 2015

Zehr (Little Book of RJ)- Chapter 1

"Restorative justice focuses on needs [in a broad sense] more than deserts [though not neglecting its importance]."

Reading Zehr on "what RJ isn't" it became unclear what was left for it to be! He is clearly trying to clarify some false perceptions of a movement that has matured and grown in many directions. That makes sense.

It also makes sense to expand our view of justice in terms of addressing the greater needs of all stakeholders involved. But one can be excused if they feel squeamish about Zehr's statement that "victims should be able to identify their own needs." At a time where the subjective needs of the perceived victim take precedence over facts, we should all be a bit skeptical.

As Zehr highlights, the State is not particularly good at addressing justice in the broader sense he is advocating. Bad things seem to happen when it tries. Yet, I doubt most RJ advocates are ready to surrender the civic sphere entirely. Zehr claims, "Restorative Justice is neither a panacea nor necessarily a replacement for the legal system."

Finally, the metaphor of RJ as a "compass" and not a "map," seems helpful. By compass, he's suggesting that RJ tells us where to go but not necessarily how to get there.

The Little Book of Restorative Justice, by Howard Zehr

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