Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Deliberation and Restorative Justice

In their article, 'Restorative justice: deliberative democracy in action?' [previously available here], John Parkinson and Declan Roche argue that "restorative justice vividly illustrates the potential of deliberative processes, showing that ordinary citizens are capable of deliberation and negotiation even when they are angry and hurt, scared and nervous."

One might wonder to what extent it really demonstrates public-minded deliberation as opposed to just self-interested bargaining. The authors elaborate:
The various parties to the dispute offer their proposals as to what needs to happen to restore the situation and must defend those proposals with reasons, meaning that outcomes are supposed to be the result of agreement, not imposition. Even though the agreements reached may be supported for very different reasons... still the parties create a collective decision through public reason rather than simply voting on pre-deliberative preferences. In the highly charged context of criminal justice, such a vote would be highly unlikely to settle even on a common understanding of the values and issues at stake let alone an acceptable agreement about the way to make amends. As already alluded to, empirical evidence available so far indicates very high levels of agreement, compliance and subsequent satisfaction with those agreements where both victims and offenders are present.

It's an interesting question what lessons can be transferred from the criminal justice system to our broader political institutions (or vice versa). I recently mentioned the idea of Citizens Juries, for example. How plausible do you find the general claim that what works in the one setting will work in the other? (My initial reaction is that the analogy seems weak; but something may be used merely as a source of ideas without depending on any such analogical argument.)


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