Restorative justice has been receiving a lot of attention lately, due to Paul Tullis’s January 4 New York Times Magazine article, “Can Forgiveness Play a Role in Criminal Justice?

This story about a restorative justice conference following the murder of a young woman by her boyfriend was also covered on the January 5 episode of the Today show, “Parents who forgave their daughter's killer: It 'frees us'.”

Both the Times and the Today stories do their audience a disservice by dwelling on forgiveness as the apparent reason for restorative justice. Forgiveness is neither an expectation nor a goal of restorative justice. Forgiveness may be a by-product, but the notion that a crime victim should forgive an offender imposes unrealistic and potentially hurtful demands on a crime victim.

Sujatha Baliga, the woman who facilitated the restorative justice conference covered by the NY Times and Today, shared her feelings about this issue on her Facebook page: “A little bummed that the [Today show] headline conflates restorative justice and forgiveness (restorative justice never requires forgiveness, although it does show up fairly often in restorative dialogues...).”

Terry O’Connell, the former Australian police officer who pioneered restorative justice conferences, saw them as “an opportunity to achieve a shared understanding of how everyone been affected by an incident.” This benefits the 90 plus percent of victims, offenders, family and friends who reported “satisfaction” and “a sense of fairness” to researchers in many varied locales in restorative conferences for a wide range of criminal offenses.

Read the full piece by IIRP President Ted Wachtel at the Huffington Post by clicking here.

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