Restorative Justice: What is it and Does it Work?

27 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2007

See all articles by Carrie Menkel-Meadow

Carrie Menkel-Meadow

University of California, Irvine School of Law; Georgetown University Law Center


This article reviews the now extensive literature on the varied arenas in which restorative justice is theorized and practiced - criminal violations, community ruptures and disputes, civil wars, regime change, human rights violations, and international law. It also reviews - by examining empirical studies of the processes in different settings - how restorative justice has been criticized, what its limitations and achievements might be, and how it might be understood. I explore the foundational concepts of reintegrative shaming, acknowledgment and responsibility, restitution, truth and reconciliation, and sentencing or healing circles for their transformative and theoretical potentials and for their actual practices in a variety of locations - family abuse, juvenile delinquency, criminal violations, problem-solving courts, indigenous-colonial-national disputes, ethnic and religious conflicts, civil wars, and liberation struggles. Restorative justice, which began as an alternative model of criminal justice, seeking healing and reconciliation for offenders, victims, and the communities in which they are embedded, has moved into larger national and international arenas of reintegration in political and ethnic conflicts. This review suggests that there are important and serious questions about whether restorative justice should be supplemental or substitutional of more conventional legal processes and about how its innovations suggest potentially transformative and challenging ideas and "moves" for dealing with both individual and group transgressive conduct, seeking peace as well as justice.

Keywords: reconciliation, criminal law, international law, restorative justice, dispute resolution

Suggested Citation

Menkel-Meadow, Carrie J., Restorative Justice: What is it and Does it Work?. Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 1005485, Annual Review, 2007, Available at SSRN:

Carrie J. Menkel-Meadow (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

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Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

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