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Restorative Justice Is Not Forgiveness

forgiveness on Stories - Restorative justice has been receiving a lot of attention lately, due to Paul Tullis's January 4 New York Times Magazine article, "Can Forgiveness Play a Role in Criminal Justice?"

This story about a restorative justice conference following the murder of a young woman by her boyfriend was also covered on the January 5 episode of the Today Show, "Parents who forgave their daughter's killer: It 'frees us.'"

Both the Times and the Today stories do their audience a disservice by dwelling on forgiveness as the apparent reason for restorative justice. Forgiveness is neither an expectation nor a goal of restorative justice. Forgiveness may be a by-product, but the notion that a crime victim should forgive an offender imposes unrealistic and potentially hurtful demands on a crime victim.

Sujatha Baliga, the woman who facilitated the restorative justice conference covered by the NY Times and Today, shared her feelings about this issue on her Facebook page: "A little bummed that the [Today show] headline conflates restorative justice and forgiveness (restorative justice never requires forgiveness, although it does show up fairly often in restorative dialogues...)."

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