n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Knocking and entering : restorative justice arrives at the courts

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In recent years the focus has shifted from the philosophy of restorative justice, to its potential for implementation and the benefits it might bring; to the ways in which it has been implemented in some countries, and likely to be implemented in the future; taking into account the legal, institutional and / or constitutional parameters of justice systems at the beginning of the third millennium. An examination of some critical issues surrounding restorative justice may provide useful insights into the way various countries have responded to rising crime rates and justice demands. Feminist questions on the applicability of restorative justice for more serious types of crime is also extremely relevant to any discussion on criminal justice reform since it is the most common context in which women come into contact with the justice system, both as perpetrators and victims. Closely linked to these debates is the question of the 'institutionalisation' of restorative justice. This article seeks to explore the various debates surrounding restorative justice engagement with criminal justice and focuses on three main issues that complicate this issue in modern societies :

  • Firstly, to what extent are restorative justice schemes different from traditional justice and is it entirely new? The 'separatist vs. integrationist' argument looks at the relationship between 'restorative justice' and 'criminal justice'. In this regard two distinct schools of thought can be identified.
  • Secondly, to what extent are restorative justice schemes intended as replacements for traditional justice? Should it be adopted as a small part of justice, for primarily juvenile offenders and minor crimes, or should it replace criminal justice with an evolving restorative criminal justice? Should it stand alongside criminal justice as an alternative system for resolving disputes?
  • Thirdly, from whose perspective should we consider and evaluate restorative justice and the potential for its implementation? Should evaluation of restorative justice and its implementation be undertaken from the perspective of the state, where the multiple aims are crime reduction and delivering justice fairly and efficiently, or should it be from the perspective of the individual case, so that processes and outcomes always have to meet minimum standards, as in codes of practice and human rights outcomes? Should it be from the perspective of lay participants- defendants, victims, witnesses and local communities, who may have both process requirements and forward looking problem solving, crime prevention aims, all of which are more complicated than the state's simple crime reductive aim of lessening reconviction?


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