Restorative justice has become an increasingly important element in reform and change to criminal justice systems throughout the western world, and there are many reasons for satisfaction with the progress that has been made – from the point of view of victims, offenders, the level and incidence of reoffending, and in terms of public opinion. At the same time there has been cause for concern, not least to do with the confusion on aims that has accompanied the rapid spread of restorative justice practices, an over-estimate of its possibilities, a blurring of concepts and a lack of attention to legal rights and processes. This book, based on papers presented at the 5th international conference held at Leuven, Belgium in 2002, aims to provide an overview of recent experience of restorative justice in the light of these concerns. The central theme is the positioning, or repositioning, of restorative justice in contexts where it can offer hope to communities both fearful of crime and looking for more socially constructive responses to crime. At the same time restorative justice practitioners seek definition in relation to the kinds of crime it is appropriate to apply restorative justice to, how it relates to different forms of punishment, to rehabilitation, and how it fits in with criminal justice systems and the law of different countries – how to reconcile the informal, participatory philosophy of restorative justice with formal legal processes and the need for legal safeguards.
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