The Restorative Ideal of Justice

Di Frank Schweigert

In: Philosophical Insights for a Theory of Restorative Justice XLVIII , No. 2 ( 2019 )

Sezione Saggi / Articles


The restorative ideal of justice is presented here in relation to three other ideals of justice to clarify the central dynamics and aims of restorative justice. Two common elements are community deliberation and the engagement of victims and offenders. Complementarities in these elements of practice and variations in their level and intensity reflect different ideals of justice: retributive, reparative, restorative, and redemptive. Further examination of these ideals indicates that each contributes essential elements of justice to the practice and pursuit of the restorative ideal. The reassertion of moral righteousness at the heart of retributive justice is incorporated in the restorative ideal by the victim and offender’s shared recognition of the norms violated and the reaffirmation of those norms – and, in some cases, the enrichment and expansion of these norms. The reincorporation of offenders and victims that is central to redemptive justice is achieved in restorative justice by the community’s reception of the agency of offenders and victims in remedying the harms done and affirmation of their role as builders of community and morals. The deliberative determination of equity in reparative justice is present in the processes of restorative justice through which victims, offenders, supporters, and community members face the facts of harms done, the cost to persons and community, and the labor required to build a more just and thriving community. This essay concludes that in restorative justice the deliberative processes revolve around the victim and offender in their shared willingness to turn this occasion of offense into a project of improvement personally and communally. This is the truly revolutionary heart of restorative justice, that victims and offenders become agents of societal betterment and that crime becomes an opportunity for building community and strengthening moral and social norms.