Sunday, July 18, 2010

Restorative Justice (RJ) in every day life....

Over the last number of years I have reflected on RJ and the rest of our lives - like our workplaces and homes. What does it mean that RJ is primarily used in victim/offender contexts whether that be in the justice system or playground misbehaviour? One of my frustrations about mediating in the criminal justice system was that RJ was primarily focused on the incident where there was a clear victim and offender as defined by the law.

Yet in many of the justice situations I mediated there was always a context - often the `offender'; had experienced mistreatment by the `victim; in an earlier incident. I found that the dynamics of justice-initiated mediations too often limited the scope of the conversations to the 'incident', in spite of efforts by the mediators to broaden the conversation to the context in which the offence occurred.

What I love about workplace mediation is that we get to talk about the themes and patterns in the relationship where people move between feeling victimized, and being the offender - with the retributive justice world view often lurking in the background.

My experience in these contexts suggests that, until the mediation, RJ is not nearly as common in the workplace as we might think.And if we are trying to come up for alternatives to Retributive Justice - don't we need to start with our every day lives like at home and work where avoidance and retribution abound? Will society be ready to apply restorative justice to 'criminals' if they don't experience it at home and work?

Have others given thought to how RJ relates to home and workplace, where relationships are more complex, on-going, and people shift between the 'victim', 'offender', and 'deliverer of (retributive) justice'?

Janet P. Schmidt
Facilitated Solutions
Workplace Mediation and Conflict Management Services

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