The Contribution of Religion to Restorative Justice Behind Bars

in Journal of Law, Religion and State
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The present article discusses restorative justice as a distinct way of looking at criminal justice, in particular at imprisonment. It aims to explain how and why some of the fundamental goals of restorative justice, such as reconciliation, reintegration, encounter, and forgiveness are more compatible with the Christian doctrine than with most present approaches to crime. Exploring the conceptual relationship and the contribution of Christianity to the promotion of restorative justice, and vice-versa, a second practical compatibility emerges between Christianity and imprisonment, with reference specifically to the restorative justice programs developed by faith-based organizations behind prison bars in New Zealand and South Africa.

Although the article is written from a Christian perspective matching the clear (Christian-oriented) nature of the programs where the qualitative data derive from, it is not intended to be exclusionary. Restorative justice has application beyond the Judeo-Christian dogma and its principles are deeply embedded in all major religions. But Christianity is undoubtedly dominant both in restorative justice and in prison settings, as it has been constantly involved in the spread and delivery of numerous in-prison restorative justice programs worldwide.