Eric Assur at Restorative Justice Online has just posted a book review on Restorative Justice Today: Practical Applications, edited by Katherine S. van Wormer and Lorenn Walker. As I mentioned last fall, this book includes a chapter co-written by IIRP President Ted Wachtel and another written by IIRP Assistant Director for Communications Laura Mirsky.
Over the past thirty years the number of books or publications on Restorative Justice (R.J.) has increased annually. In 2013 justice practitioners, students and conflict resolution (or conflict prevention) readers may proclaim this publication as their book of the year. The authors, both with interesting backgrounds and academic credentials have provided a ‘practical’ look at the current applications for R.J. in the United States and elsewhere. Unlike most North American or United Kingdom anthologies with limited geographic focus this publication provides an impressive worldwide frame of reference. The words they use are well chosen and the entire collection of twenty five (25) articles by a well chosen collection of twenty nine listed authors is thoughtfully organized.
In the preface the editors offer a sensitive statement that they would be sharing a look at this paradigm shift (R.J.) through powerful stories of ‘seeking the good in people’ and ‘righting a wrong not only for victims but also for offenders and communities.’ The diversity of the contributors is as broad as the commentary on dozens of programs. The writers from Norway, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, El Salvador, and the United States are attorneys, professors, social workers, program directors, and a physician-anthropologist. The topical areas within the five broad categories include clergy abuse, juvenile justice, adult corrections, sexual assault, domestic violence, anti-bullying programming and practices related to drug courts, mental health courts, environmental justice and reparations to ‘tribal and racial populations who have been wronged by the society.’
Its college textbook nature and the commendable use of links to films or DVD’s, bibliographies, electronic sources or websites is likely to be appreciated by any reader seeking to go further than the summary to be found within each brief chapter. Each chapter concludes with two (just two) critical thinking questions and an alphabetical list of references. Seven of the chapters include boxed readings or highlighted commentary by the editors to enhance the overall merit of a chapter.
As would be expected, the collection opens with the requisite definition of R.J. In just a dozen pages Lorenn Walker offers a springboard for the book. Just what is R.J., how can justice in many arenas be viewed through different lenses, and what are the characteristics of the traditional western justice that does not look at harm to and restoration of those involved. The book begins with a snapshot view of justice delivery in decades past. The core of the book looks into the many flavors of what might or might not actually be labeled as R.J. This core is interesting and rich due to this diverse application of a justice that may be more healing than the retributive justice seen in many settings decades ago or even now in many venues.
Read the rest of the Review: Restorative justice today: Practical applications.