Restorative Justice and Religion A Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

Instead, Hadley (2001) argues that an understanding of the role of spirituality in restorative justice today can encourage peaceful communities both domestically and internationally. In fact, the spiritual component of restorative justice left lingering from its formation impacts today's attempts to practice restorative justice at the individual, communal, and international levels. In each scenario, components of spirituality remaining from the spiritual roots of restorative justice can help bring healing to a set of offenders and victims, in addition to fostering community cohesion.

On the individual level, the goal of restorative justice focuses on the individual who offended and his or her victim, although the entire community involved in the conflict can be brought in to the attempt to restore justice are often included. On the other hand, the community goal of restorative justice is bringing the community together in order to form a better functioning society. In her article, "The Role of Chaplaincy in Restorative Justice," Sister Adriana Volona suggests that the religious component of restorative justice is still being used during the modern era in order to affect change at the individual level and community level. Volona (2000) suggests that "for chaplains restorative justice is the practical implication for the spiritual foundation of all major Faith traditions by the very nature of the function of religion," (pg. 2). Thus, Volona (2000) argues that restorative justice still embodies the elements of the faith traditions, and that chaplains, as professionals of faith themselves, can work with victims and offenders in order to achieve results through restorative justice means. Perhaps, Voloma's argument may even suggest that chaplains and other professionals of faith are among the best suited to use restorative justice methods. Evidence for this can be found through her own description of her job. Volona (2000) explains that "a chaplain's role is to be a confidential and non-judgmental listener to prisoners, believing in them as valuable human beings deserving of our utmost respect and dignity" (pg. 2). The chaplain further suggests that many prisoners do not feel that they are deserving of respect, so that this function serves as a method of restorative justice in preparing them to reenter society as a member of the community (Volona, 2000, pg. 2). In addition to this, Volona gives examples of the practical synthesis of the spiritual roots of restorative justice and its practice today by listing several ways that chaplains use restorative justice techniques. For instance, she advocates non-judgmental listening, becoming an advocate for prisoners within the community, and being an advocate for restorative justice within the community. The best illustration of how restorative justice's spiritual roots continue to affect the type of justice today, however, falls within her advisement to "encourage the personal and spiritual development of prisoners" (Volona, 2000, pg. 10). In doing this, Volona suggests that the chaplain accepts prisoners as part of the community, moving to restoration once again. In addition Volona (2000) links spiritual with personal discovery, showing how prisoners who begin a spiritual journey also learn more about themselves. They "discover their talents and positive personal attributes," while chaplains are "encouraging them to follow their positive ambitions" (pg. 10). Volona (2000) also identifies that this process helps prisoners move to away from guilt, anger, and other negative emotions and "towards personal integrity," as well as "self forgiveness and a belief in themselves that they can change or their own good" (pg. 10).

On the community level, Volona (2000) gives similarly strong evidence, suggesting that religious professionals like chaplains can help communities function better as a society by becoming advocates for prisoners and for restorative justice. Volona (2000) suggests that religious professionals can "advocate within the community and within Corrections for the provision of better rehabilitation resources for prisoners as well as for alternatives to imprisonment," institutions which will allow "prisoners to experience being better valued and respected in having their needs met" (pg. 10). Thus, Volona (2000) argues that the religious professional can use restorative justice at the community, bringing the community and the offenders together. In addition, Volona (2000) suggests that religious professionals like chaplains can encourage the community to adopt measures like restorative justice instead of more punitive measures.

Thus, Volona (2000) presents a strong argument for the importance of religion and spirituality in restorative justice today. Just as religion and spirituality have inspired what is now termed restorative justice in the criminal justice field, they remain an integral part of this type of justice in the modern day. At the individual level, Volona (2000) suggests that spirituality still plays a major role in restorative justice through the roles that chaplains and other religious professionals play in the prison system. Because Volona argues that religion and restorative justice share some important characteristics, she concludes that religious professionals have an almost natural ability to use restorative justice methods in dealing with prisoners. Even more convincingly, Volona argues that encouraging a prisoner's spiritual development can be considered a method of restorative justice, as this will encourage self-discover and a desire to reunite with the community. On the community level, Volona also makes a strong argument for the role of religion in restorative justice, suggesting that religious professionals with their inherent affinity for restorative justice can act as advocates of restorative justice in the community, encouraging the entire community to come together and play a productive role in society.

While remnants of the spiritual nature of the restorative justice system are clearly evident at both the individual and community level, they also play a large role at the international level. Philpott (2007) suggests transnational justice, or "an effort to address the past injustices of a civil war or some form of authoritarianism," as a form of restorative justice (pg. 1). Further, Philpott (2007) suggests that "what is novel to the past generation is the frequency, diversity, and innovation of confrontations with the past all over the globe," as well as scholars' and other academicians' interest in them (pg. 2). Philpott (2007) continues by identifying the role that religion plays in transnational justice. The "theme of reconciliation," which Philpott (2007 identifies as having "a particularly strong justification in religious texts, traditions, and theologies and is espoused by religious actors disproportionately to secular actors," is a one way in which restorative justice's spiritual roots have affected its modern conception at the international level (pg. 4-5). Further, Philpott (2007) argues that religious professionals of the day still have a great role to play in international restorative justice, suggesting that they can make the role of reconciliation more applicable to international politics "by developing it into practices and tackling ethical dilemmas" (pg. 46). Thus, restorative justice is not only applicable among individuals and small communities, but is a theme of criminal justice that can be applied even in international situations. This has rather significant consequences, suggesting that it may be able to solve conflicts that remain among nations after wars and other struggles, in addition to eventually taking on a preventative role. As this form of restorative justice increases, the role of religion in this area will most likely also increase, as the spiritual characteristic of reconciliation is incredibly important in this practice.

V. Conclusion

Although religion has played a role in the construction of many societies, restorative justice has a unique religious component. Although the history of restorative justice is somewhat controversial, the religious roots in this theory of criminal justice are obvious. Having characteristics of all major religions, restorative justices makes an attempt to bring unity to the offender, victim, and community, drawing all together in a functioning society. Further, restorative justice also works at multiple levels, including the individual, community, and international. This suggests that restorative justice, in the form of transnational justice, may eventually allow states to come together in order to prevent war, make reconciliation, and encourage peace. Just as spirituality has played a major role in the formation of restorative justice, it also plays an important role today on each level. Religious professionals such as chaplains can use restorative justice methods to help offenders come to terms with their offenses, victims, and community. Because religious professionals have a predisposition to this type of justice because of their own religious beliefs, they may be more successful at this than others. Further, encouraging prisoners to develop spiritually can also increase unity among communities, as spiritual development also encourages personal development. On the community level, spiritual professionals are also skilled at persuading community members to use restorative justice methods with prisoners. Finally, at the international level, the religious characteristic of reconciliation allows nations who have once been torn apart by war to come together again. Thus, religion still plays an incredibly important role in restorative justice. Although some may suggest that this is a secular age and religion should not be encouraged, this is not the case. Encouraging religious professionals to approach situations where restorative justice can…

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