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Perspectives on retributive and restorative justice

One can consider and practice justice, from different perspectives, e.g. the retributive and restorative point of view. The retributive justice refers to punishment as based on the need for revenge, in which the element of justice lies (Wenzel, 2007: 376), where, in the restorative justice, it is the healing element rather than punishment that is central (ibid.). In this perspective, the victim will be able to include his or her feelings and thereby start the healing process – likewise, the offender is supposed to undergo a healing process, through which moral and social attributes are rebuilt (ibid.: 376).

As presented in the article Retributive and restorative justice, evidence suggests that the restoration of justice is the main motivation for punishment (ibid.: 376). Therefore, one can argue that the feeling of righteousness associated with the punishment could in some cases, be a dominant part of the process of the victim overcoming the offense, a component that the restorative perspective may not consider. It might also be noteworthy to consider the degree of the crime – are some crimes not so horrendous, that a healing restorative trial is far fetched? Or is it even possible to heal a victim of serious crimes? Could anyone of the stakeholders, besides the offender, truly be satisfied and healed in those cases?

Furthermore, the article argues that those involved (the victim and the offender) is only left a limited role in the formal court-based justice system (ibid.: 377). If the crime is deemed the domain of the state (ibid.), follows an objectivity that may be an important, if not in some cases necessary, part of achieving justice. As an example; if one of those two has a very strong and trustworthy personality, the involvement of feelings could prevent a fair verdict.  

We are left with a fundamental problem. How is it possible to be an impartial judge who objectively is capable of judging whether the offender is truly feeling remorse, which is the prerequisite for a successful healing process. Finally, how can the restorative justice be sufficient in cases where the offender refuse to or is not capable of feeling remorse?


Is restorative justice prior to retributive justice?

Is restorative justice prior to retributive justice?

Wenzel et al. (2008) Retributive and restorative justice. Law and Human Behavior

  • Adina Stroe Ren, Johanne Kloster Kirk, Anna-Kathrine Gottschalk-Hansen, Ida Harder Nielsen and Pernille Viola Robrahn

2 comments to Perspectives on retributive and restorative justice

  • lgissel

    Great photo to choose in illustrating your point about the lack of remorse! Should Breivik be reconciled with his victims and reintegrated into society? Can society ask victims to forgive? The last question has been debated in South Africa, where some victims argued that they did not want to forgive the perpetrators that wronged them. And that it was wrong of society to expect that of them. In Uganda, many ex-rebels have been reintegrated into society (formally, at least, if not informally) after having undergone a ‘cleansing ritual’ and received an official amnesty. Some of them are responsible for as many deaths as Breivik. If you want to look into resotrative Justice in the Ugandan case (lots has been written about this), look up articles by Erin Baines.

  • mejdi

    Interesting post. specially in the USA where these questions are debated. Because as we all know, in the USA there is still the death penalty. Probably in states like Texas, they would find it fine. In the USA there is a different way to approach the justice problem. They believe that the severe punishment may be justice. Here in Europe, specially in Scandinavia, we have a different “system”. Our prisons look like “hotel” and everything seems pedagogical. We have the conception that good treatment is the best solution.

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