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restorative justice
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  A faithful compass: rethinking the term restorative justice to  󿬁 ndclarity Dorothy Vaandering*  Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John ’   s, NL, Canada A1C 5S7  (  Received 1 March 2010;  󿬁 nal version received 23 December 2010 )In the  󿬁 eld of restorative justice (RJ) there is regular debate regarding the terms restorative  and  justice . In spite of efforts to come to a common vision, thisongoing discussion illustrates how theoretical and practical disagreements haveresulted in RJ being characterized as ambiguous and inconsistent within the judicial context and beyond. Arising out of research conducted in an educationalcontext, this paper identi 󿬁 es the impact of this ambiguity on educators. Moreimportantly, however, it examines the term  justice  and discovers that an overem- phasis on justice as fairness and individual rights has pulled the  󿬁 eld off-course.What is needed is a broader understanding of   justice , one in which justice isidenti 󿬁 ed  as honoring the inherent worth of all and enacted through relation- ship . If understood as such, the terms  restorative  and  justice  when paired serveas a much-needed compass needle that guides proponents of RJ in the  󿬁 eld totheir desired destinations. Keywords:  restorative justice; restorative practice; restorative justice theory;transformative justice; education; narrative inquiry  A rusty nail placed near a faithful compass,will sway it from the truth,and wreck the argosy.  Sir Walter Scott (1771  –  1832) In the  󿬁 eld of restorative justice (RJ) there is regular debate over the terms restorative  and  justice  (Gavrielides, 2008; Johnstone & Van Ness, 2007; Sullivan &Tifft, 2005). The term restorative frequently leads to questions about what exactlyis being restored. The word  justice  is problematic as  󿬁 elds engaged with the princi- ples of RJ such as counseling, education, and the environment tend to replace theword with terms such as restorative  practice , restorative  approaches , restorative  schools , etc. in an effort to avoid any potential connotations the term evokes relat-ing to crime and the judicial system. This ongoing discussion regarding theoreticaland practical perspectives has resulted in RJ being characterized as ambiguous andinconsistent within the judicial context and beyond (Gavrielides, 2008; Johnstone &Van Ness, 2007; Sullivan & Tifft, 2005) in spite of efforts to come to a commonvision. These tensions, however, have not impeded the growth of RJ initiatives as *Email: dvaandering@mun.ca Contemporary Justice Review Aquatic Insects Vol. 14, No. 3, September 2011, 307  –  328 ISSN 1028-2580 print/ISSN 1477-2248 online   2011 Taylor & FrancisDOI: 10.1080/10282580.2011.589668http://www.informaworld.com  is evidenced in the proliferation of organizations, books, articles, videos, and web-sites espousing the value of RJ. Yet, as these initiatives grow, differences in perspective are signi 󿬁 cant and debates and tensions continue. Why?The fact that practice continues to march ahead of theory in the global socialmovement of RJ (Braithwaite, 2004; Morrison & Ahmed, 2006: Sherman & Strang,2007; Wheeldon, 2009) may be part of the reason. To contribute to a stronger theo-retical foundation, in this article I argue that an overemphasis on justice as fairnessand individual rights has pulled the  󿬁 eld off-course and what is needed is a broader understanding of   justice . If this more comprehensive perspective is understoodamong advocates of RJ, when the terms  restorative  and  justice  remain paired and in place, I believe they act as a compass needle guiding proponents in the  󿬁 eld to their desired destinations.Gavrielides (2008) identi 󿬁 es that a simple theoretic discussion of de 󿬁 nitions willnot adequately diffuse the predicament created by the conceptual tensions. He statesthat what is necessary is acknowledging the multidimensional nature of the tensionsand exploring each in depth to gradually bring about equilibrium (p. 179). In order to do this effectively however, I assert that an in-depth examination of the terms restorative  and  justice  is far from sterile and single-layered. It is a critical, complexfoundational step required for addressing the tensions that exist.The foundation for this argument arises from a qualitative study that examinedthe impact of restorative justice on two Ontario (Canada) public schools (Vaander-ing, 2009). A key  󿬁 nding identi 󿬁 ed inconsistency and confusion associated with RJin the educational context. To fully understand the dilemma in this environment Iexamined the limited RJ literature rooted in schooling, and then turned to the  󿬁 eldof law and justice for further clarity. By drawing on both  󿬁 elds, the lack of a com-mon reference point is magni 󿬁 ed. Conducting a conceptual analysis from the van-tage point of education as opposed to a judicial context where most suchdiscussions are currently positioned, results in insights that led to a rethinking of the term  restorative justice  and discovering it to be a faithful compass needle.Permeating the entire essay are three questions: What is justice? What is beingrestored? How can the term justice be employed across various  󿬁 elds without elicit-ing connotations of crime? 1. Looking for direction: conceptual tensions Examining RJ practice situated in the  󿬁 eld of education provides a different viewthan the prevalent judicial perspective from which the contemporary understandingof RJ that focuses on responding to harm has arisen. Though many educators ini-tially engage with RJ as a means for responding to harmful behavior, their primaryrole is not to  manage  behavior but to  educate . As a result, educators engaging withRJ are often pulled in different directions. Much can be learned from their experi-ences in regards to the foundational principles of RJ for all  󿬁 elds.The study employs qualitative, critical-narrative case study methodology in itsexamination of the impact of RJ on two Ontario public schools. Each school wasfrom a different school board (district) that had recently committed to RJ in aneffort to address bullying and violence as well as attempting to reduce suspensionand expulsion numbers. Training had been provided for approximately one-third of the staff in one of the schools; in the other, all of the adults had received training.From both schools combined, 37 educators were interviewed and four teachers and 308  D. Vaandering   two administrators were observed over a six-week period as they went about their daily work. By taking the position of participant-observer and using re 󿬂 exivity, Iwas able to critically examine my own perspectives as well as those of the partici- pants (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2000; Harding, 1991; Pillow, 2003). Becauseof this role, the initial purpose of the study, which was to examine what RJ lookedlike, sounded like, and felt like on the ground, expanded to include an analysis of theoretical frameworks as I began to question my own understanding of RJ. Changein the researcher is not uncommon in qualitative studies that employ participant-observation (Denzin, 1978; Patton, 2002; Merriam, 1998). By acknowledging thechange additional insights can emerge which in this case formed the foundation for this essay, which calls for rethinking the term  restorative justice.  This coincideswith Toews and Zehr  ’ s (2003) call for   ‘ 󿬁 nding ways of knowing and doing researchthat re 󿬂 ect the values we espouse in restorative justice ’  in order to avoid perpetuat-ing harmful hierarchical power structures (p. 257). In that spirit I included myself as a participant-observer engaging with the participants in a communal dialogicmanner in the hope that, like in a RJ conference/circle, a fuller story or perspectiveof RJ might emerge. Theoretical insights arose as I listened to the different voicesand thus in the context of this article are presented as my personal experience. 1.1. From this location In analyzing the formal interviews, it became obvious that educators ’  perceptionsand practices of RJ were inconsistent and did not re 󿬂 ect the brief introduction to the philosophical signi 󿬁 cance of the movement they received in their training. Thoughmany found that the call for a paradigm shift in terms of thinking about the role of rules and the need to repair harm resonated with them, in most cases they interpretedRJ as a strategy like others they employed to better manage students. This con-tradicted my understanding of RJ as a philosophy, a way of being that I had gainedfrom participating in the same trainings the participants had, my own experiences asa teacher, and from extended reading. I became conscious of being  ‘  burdened byconceptual tensions ’  (Gavrielides, 2008, p. 178) as the inconsistency I was observingin others re 󿬂 ected my own struggle to  󿬁 nd ways to articulate what RJ was and whyit was important. I also became conscious of what Sawatsky (2009) names the  pluck and choose model   and the  conversion model   of engaging with restorative justice inmyself and in the participants. In particular the limitations of merely adopting a prac-tice without engaging with wider change (Sawatsky, 2009) became apparent in theschool context. To better understand this gap, I examined the literature regarding RJand education and then turned to the theory and philosophy that proponents of RJconnected to the judicial  󿬁 eld had developed. From these, the various nuances in the principles and approaches taken by practitioners and theorists appeared and shedlight on the perceptions and practices of teachers. 1.2. Exploring the  󿬁 eld  Like many educators globally, I was  󿬁 rst introduced to RJ through the signi 󿬁 cant work of O ’ Connell and Wachtel (Wachtel, 1997). Drawing on Maori traditions of  justice they initially worked in the context of educating youth involved with crimein New South Wales, Australia and Pennsylvania, USA. This led to O ’ Connell andWachtel recognizing the potential for RJ to be used with all students in all schools. Contemporary Justice Review  309  To explain this concept, a social discipline window was developed as a theoreticalframework that focused on the behavior of students and how educators responded(Wachtel, 1999). A response that used high support and high expectations is consid-ered restorative in that youth are nurtured by the consistent stable engagement of educators along WITH students. This relational emphasis was in contrast to schoolenvironments where more authoritarian or permissive relationships existed betweenteachers and students that resulted in doing things TO or FOR students.According to Wachtel and O ’ Connell, in these contexts, students are not consis-tently taught to take responsibility for their own actions. In early work, Wachtel(1999) coined the terms Real Justice and Safer Saner Schools to describe their work which brought together victims, offenders and their support communities, anapproach that sought to move justice from a retributive, adversarial response towrongdoing to a relational engagement that acknowledged and reinforced the inter- personal connections of community. More recently (2002) the term Real Justice has become a brand name for the approach of their training and graduate school theInternational Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP), which explicitly encouragesthe use of the term  restorative practices . Under this umbrella term,  restorative jus-tice  is considered a judicial restorative practice,  restorative schools  an educationalrestorative practice,  family group counseling  , a restorative practice related to socialwork, etc. (IIRP., n.d.).To support their theoretical approach, Wachtel and O ’ Connell draw signi 󿬁 cantlyon the work of Braithwaite (1989) another early proponent of RJ who developed atheory of reintegrative shaming to describe why RJ is effective. Using Nathanson ’ s(1996) compass of shame, Braithwaite identi 󿬁 ed that peoples ’  response to shame isthe theoretical reason for the effectiveness of RJ. Differentiating between reintegra-tive shaming and stigmatized shaming, Braithwaite highlights that when wrongdo-ing occurs, shame results in both those harmed and those who have caused harm.When this shame is used to stigmatize a person, they are alienated and cut off fromtheir community. When the shame is addressed and the community sends a messagethat they value the participants as people but do not endorse the harmful action,then shame is used to reintegrate people into their community. This theory hasgained much attention and support through the frequent training sessions the IIRPconducts across the world, but criticisms of the theory exist as the emotion of shame carries with it signi 󿬁 cant negative connotations (M.K. Harris, 2006; N. Har-ris, 2006; Maxwell & Morris, 2004).In the context of education, shaming may contribute to the confusion educatorsexperience in terms of understanding RJ as distinguishing between reintegrativeshaming and stigmatized shaming is dif  󿬁 cult for two key reasons. First there is asigni 󿬁 cant power differential between the adults and the students that in the busy-ness of a school day can easily be misused. In considering the role of shame in RJ,this can lead to enacting stigmatized shaming if educators do not clearly understandthe difference between the two types of shaming. Second, the language of stigma-tized shaming resonates more readily with the language often emphasized in teacher education and professional development programs as well as government andschool policies that encourage teachers to better   manage  their classrooms and stu-dent behavior.The inconsistent and varied use of key terms teachers encounter in the availableRJ resources as well as the challenge of carrying out educational policy with young people, readily contributes to growing ambiguity and understanding of RJ. To 310  D. Vaandering 
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