2 minute read

Restorative Justice

How Widespread Is Interest In Restorative Justice?

The initial conceptualization of restorative justice began in the late 1970s and was first clearly articulated by Howard Zehr. At that time, the discussion of this new paradigm was based largely in North America, with a small network of academicians and practitioners in Europe. Restorative justice was not being considered seriously by mainstream criminal and juvenile justice policymakers and practitioners.

By 1990, an international conference supported by NATO funds was convened in Italy to examine the growing interest in restorative justice throughout the world. Academicians and practitioners from a wide range of countries (Austria, Belgium, Canada, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, Turkey) presented papers related to the development and impact of restorative justice policies and practice. International interest in restorative justice has continued to grow. In 1995, the New Zealand Ministry of Justice issued a working paper on restorative justice for serious consideration as a federal policy. During 1996 and 1997, a group of scholars in North America and Europe interested in restorative justice met in the United States and Belgium to further examine this emerging practice theory. Additional and much larger international conferences have been held in the United States and in Germany. The Council of Europe endorsed the concept of restorative justice through victim-offender mediation in 1999, and a subcommittee of the United Nations has also been examining the concept.

Interest in the United States grew extensively during the mid-to late 1990s. Representing one of the oldest and most visible expressions of restorative justice, the practice of victim-offender mediation (Umbreit, 1995c; Zehr) in which the actual victim and offender meet each other, talk about the impact of the crime, and develop a plan for repairing the harm, is now occurring in more than three hundred communities throughout the United States and at more than one thousand locations in Europe (Umbreit and Greenwood).

Perhaps the strongest indication of how the restorative justice practice of victim-offender mediation is entering the mainstream is seen in the actions of one of its most powerful former skeptics. The American Bar Association has played a major leadership role in the area of civil court mediation for over two decades. After many years of little interest, if not skepticism, the A.B.A. in the summer of 1994 fully endorsed the practice of victim-offender mediation and recommended its development in courts throughout the country.

Another clear expression of the growing support for restorative justice is seen in the National Organization for Victim Assistance's endorsement of "restorative community justice." During the early years of this movement, most victim advocacy groups were quite skeptical. While some still are, however, there is a growing number of victim support organizations actively participating in the restorative justice movement.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawRestorative Justice - What Is Restorative Justice?, What Does Restorative Justice Look Like In Practice?, How Widespread Is Interest In Restorative Justice?