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Unpublished Paper
Reforming Restorative Justice for Legal Philosophy
  • Hyun G Lee, Boston University

Many jurisdictions around United States and rest of the world have implemented restorative justice practices as part of its justice system. Despite the growing number of restorative justice initiatives, “scholars of jurisprudence and legal philosophy … have paid little attention to the developments….” If the legal philosophy scholars accepted or engaged in restorative justice theory, there would be even broader acceptance of restorative justice practices. There are, however, several obstacles that prevent a broader acceptance of restorative justice.

First, restorative justice practitioners must use the same terminology and definition as legal philosophers, particularly the terms retribution and punishment. Restorative justice practitioners use “retributive justice” synonymously with punishment. In general, restorative justice practitioners have defined retribution too broadly compared to legal theory. Conversely, restorative justice practitioners have often too-narrowly defined punishment. They present the restorative justice practices as an alternative to punishment rather than an alternative form of punishment. Due to these differences in definitions, legal philosophers would find much of restorative justice literature indefinite or inaccurate. In order for restorative justice theories to be comprehensible to legal philosophers, restorative justice theorists must be more definite in the terminology and use the same terminology and definitions as legal theorists.

Secondly, restorative justice practitioners must reframe restorative justice as a justification for punishment rather than an alternative to punishment. Much of restorative justice literature suggests benefits of restorative justice practices in ways that are similar to other justifications for punishment. Such reframing would allow legal philosophers to more readily acknowledge and engage in restorative justice theory as a plausible alternative to or another category of existing justifications for punishment.

Finally, restorative justice is sometimes presented in a manner that seems spiritual or religious. Legal philosophers may unfortunately discount restorative justice principles based on the presentation by its practitioners. Unless restorative justice practitioners address all these obstacles, the traditional academia may continue to unfairly ignore much of the restorative justice theories.

  • Restorative Justice,
  • Legal Theory
Publication Date
Citation Information
Hyun G Lee. "Reforming Restorative Justice for Legal Philosophy" (2015)
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