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Restorative justice and the therapeutic tradition: Looking into the future

Johnstone, Gerry


Gerry Johnstone


If asked to explain the essence of restorative justice in one or two sentences, many advocates and practitioners might employ Nils Christie’s formula about the state and its actors stealing conflicts which belong to crime victims and offenders and explain how restorative justice returns these conflicts to their rightful owners. This chapter aims to contribute to the Handbook’s ambition of pushing the boundaries of restorative justice by arguing that such an account involves a serious misplacement of restorative justice: it misrepresents the role which treatment professionals and their working ideologies have played in shaping the discourse and practice of restorative justice. The chapter starts by looking more closely than has become usual at Christie’s renowned remarks about the state stealing conflicts, and in particular at what he has to say about treatment. It then argues that the therapeutic tradition in penal practice has suffered from being mischaracterised, and offers a revised image of this tradition. On this basis, the chapter goes on to argue that restorative justice can be located firmly within the therapeutic tradition in penal practice, albeit it makes some important innovations within it. Whilst critical of the notion that restorative justice emerged from outside the therapeutic tradition and is sharply opposed to it, this chapter is intended not as a critique of restorative justice but as a more accurate placement of it. Crucially, it suggests that the restorative justice movement can benefit from a better understanding of its affinities with the treatment tradition in penal practice.


Johnstone, G. (2018). Restorative justice and the therapeutic tradition: Looking into the future. In Routledge International Handbook of Restorative Justice (395-408). Taylor & Francis (Routledge).

Online Publication Date Aug 6, 2018
Publication Date Jul 26, 2018
Deposit Date Feb 19, 2021
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Pages 395-408
Book Title Routledge International Handbook of Restorative Justice
Chapter Number 26
ISBN 9781472480705
Public URL
Publisher URL
Contract Date Feb 1, 2018