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Race & Restorative Justice

This is an international research project aiming to bring race and cultural relations into the restorative justice debate. Following a presentation at the 2013 4th US National Conference on Restorative Justice, Dr. Theo Gavrielides initiated a new research project to investigate matters of race relations within the context of restorative justice theory and practice. The project is unfunded and carried out under the auspices of RJ4All. To express an interest as a funder, supporter, researcher or practitioner e-mail . The 2nd International Symposium of Restorative Justice was also dedicated to issues of race, xenophobia, hate crime and restorative justice, while Gavrielides has published Gavrielides T. (2014). “Bringing Race Relations into the Restorative Justice Debate”. Vol. 45: No. 3 Journal of Black Studies, pp. 216-246.

Over the last twenty years, the concept of restorative justice spread fast across the world occupying scholarly and policy debates principally within the criminal justice arena. Some argue that one of the reasons that restorative justice was brought back into the world of policy and practice is the growing disappointment of the current criminal justice system. Therefore, it is surprising why race hasn't featured more prominently in the restorative justice discourse. A newcomer to restorative justice would expect that its first normative promises and aspirations should have been for those who are let down the most. But the criminal justice system and the policies, laws, institutions and structures that support it do not exist in a vacuum. They are informed by our subconscious and sometimes overt bias against various social categories. Bringing race into the restorative justice debate for research, policy and practice is a much needed and long overdue task with many challenges. Key questions to be asked:

  • Are there any benefits to be gained for using restorative justice for inter-cultural conflicts?
  • To continue the restorative justice movement, do we need to become more knowledgeable and sensitive to cross-cultural dynamics?
  • Is there a place for race and ethnicity in discussions about restorative justice practices?
  • Should cultural competence training be included in restorative justice workshops? Why or why not?
  • How can restorative justice contribute to finding a solution to the larger social problems of racism within our social institutions such as the criminal justice system?
  • What are the barriers when applying restorative justice theory and practice within the context of race equality?

"Restorative Justice is an ethos with practical goals, among which is to restore harm by including affected parties in a (direct or indirect) encounter and a process of understanding through voluntary and honest dialogue. Restorative justice adopts a fresh approach to conflicts and their control, retaining at the same time certain rehabilitative goals" (Gavrielides 2007: 139)

The intention of this action research project is to bring to the restorative justice debate a new dimension that is yet to be explored in its own right. This refers to issues surrounding race and inter-cultural relations. Particular focus is given to the delivery of justice to black and minority ethnic groups. Although there have been some studies on issues surrounding diversity, hate incidents, power dynamics and adequate cultural training, the relationship between restorative justice and race remains largely unexplored both normatively and empirically (Davidheiser, 2008; Albercht, 2010; Charkoudian and Wayne, 2010).

Firstly, the project will aim to tackle some key definitions on race and restorative justice. It will then try to understand why restorative justice appeals to those working within the race equality arena. What promises does it make and what are the potential benefits that are to be gained if further practice is invested with a racial minority interest? The project will then move on to issues surrounding race and restorative justice. This exposition will be complemented with a critical account of solutions that have been explored by the literature as means for overcoming challenges faced in the application of restorative justice within the context of race.The project will conclude by applying Gavrielides and Artinopoulou reconstructed philosophical model of restorative justice in the hope that the current gaps in the knowledge of restorative justice and race can be understood and next steps identified for researchers and scholars in the field.

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