The International Journal of Restorative Justice

Article

Restorative justice as empowerment: how to better serve the goals of punitive retribution

Keywords Restorative justice, retributive punishment, empowerment of victims, restoring dignity and autonomy in survivors of crime
Authors Theo van Willigenburg
Author's information

Theo van Willigenburg
Theo van Willigenburg is resident research fellow at VU University Amsterdam and director of the Kant Academy, Utrecht (The Netherlands). Contact author: vanwilligenburg@kantacademy.nl.
  • Abstract

      Restorative justice practices are applied only to the margins of criminal justice systems. These systems generally punish the wrongdoer in order to give him his ‘just desert’. For restorative justice to be more attractive, we need to understand why punitive retribution is such a powerful motive. If the scales of justice are out of balance because of suffering inflicted (to the offended), why would the infliction of more suffering (to the offender) bring redemption? It is argued that much of the sting of being harmed by an offender derives from the identity implications of the act. Punitive retribution may satisfy short-lasting vindictive desires, but its main symbolic function is to restore the victim’s self-image and dignity by humiliating the perpetrator. This is done in a notoriously indirect and ineffective way, though. It is argued that restorative justice can do much better, if it is understood in terms of empowering the offended. This involves procedures that restore the victim’s autonomy, prestige and self-confidence. Apart from bringing the offended back into the driver’s seat of the process, restorative justice empowers the survivors of crime by helping them face offenders, face themselves and face their community. Restorative justice is not only much more rewarding than punitive retribution, it also provides better ways of communicating personal and public disapproval of crime.

Please sign in to access the article



Did you receive an activation code but no access yet? Please activate your code here.

Forgot your password? Request new password.

Purchase access

You can purchase online access to this article. You will receive 24 hrs access @ € 17,50 (excl. VAT).

24 hrs access € 17,50 (excl. VAT)

Activate your code

If you have an access code, please activate it here.