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Title: Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Restorative Justice Conferences
Author(s): VAN STOKKOM, Bas
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 15    Issue: 3   Date: September 2008   
Pages: 399-418
DOI: 10.2143/EP.15.3.2033158

Abstract :
This paper presents some findings concerning peacemaking in restorative justice conferences. In guidelines and handbooks where the terms and conditions of restorative conferences are exemplified, forgiveness and reconciliation are not explicitly mentioned. However, many proponents of restorative justice assume that ‘coming together voluntarily’ will lead to rapprochement and reconciliation. Research findings in many ways contradict this supposed dynamic. Many victims want to teach the young offender a lesson. Others don’t want ‘closure’ or ‘restoration,’ and experience the pressure to come to terms as threatening. These observations make clear that notions as ‘forgiveness,’ ‘repentance,’ and ‘restoration’ are often too ‘big’ and ill-suited to function as core principles for restorative justice. It seems inappropriate to burden the process of coping with past injuries with these concepts. The process of moral learning within restorative justice conferences might better be conceived in terms of opening up and developing understanding.

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