Restorative principles in the criminal justice system: alternatives for satisfying justice?


University of British Columbia

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Master of Laws - LLM




The subject of this thesis is criminal justice policy. It focusses on diversion, that is, alternatives to the court system. I argue that the current criminal justice system, which is rooted in retributive principles, has shortfalls which are of such a degree that it makes sense to consider alternatives. A new movement in criminal justice policy, restorative justice, reflects a theory that may provide a framework for new programs. Restorative justice is based on principles that are fundamentally different from retributive ideology and the translation of these ideas results in dramatically different programs. In my thesis I delineate the differences between restorative and retributive principles. The retributive system leads to dissatisfaction among the stakeholders in the criminal process. The purpose of the thesis is to investigate whether implementation of restorative justice principles could lead to more satisfaction and a higher quality of justice. The restorative justice theory has a strong rhetoric, as will be made clear. The implementation of restorative programs, however, does not develop quickly. There are several reasons for the slowness, including the reluctance of criminal justice officials to give new initiatives a chance to develop and to co-operate in their development. I describe three restorative programs that divert criminal cases from the court system, they are: mediation, dading, and family group conferences. On the basis of these programs I make clear which are the strengths and the possible weaknesses of restorative justice. The comparison of different programs from different countries, provides a useful insight in the dynamics of restorative justice in practice. International research and comparison will lead to understanding in how to design a suitable and valuable process. My conclusion is that a truly restorative system is neither a realistic, nor a wished situation. For a variety of cases, though, restorative programs provide a better locus for resolving the problems involved in crime, than the court process does. I therefore advise that the development of restorative programs must go on.


Criminal justice, Administration of.; Reparation (Criminal justice); Alternatives to imprisonment.;

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