Inside the Restorative Justice Black Box: The Role of Memory Reconsolidation in Transforming the Emotional Impact of Violent Crime on Victims
33 Pages Posted: 5 Jul 2019
Date Written: 2017
This paper is concerned with why and how restorative justice (RJ) works to alleviate the emotional effects of crime on victims. It posits a new explanation for the ‘aha’ moment; the turning point seen in some, though not all, restorative justice conferences where long standing, negative emotions and beliefs that have persistently dogged a victim since the crime event, affecting their ability to enjoy the same everyday activities as in their pre-crime daily life, are seemingly eliminated. Focusing on victim experiences an in-depth analysis of 20 cases collected as part of empirical study into a post-sentencing RJ practice after serious crime shows how a typical restorative process can mimic the conditions needed for ‘memory reconsolidation’, a powerful and adaptive neurobiological mechanism that rewrites emotional memories. The findings suggest that the process of MR is a unique tool in the RJ ‘black box’. While the use of RJ within western criminal justice systems is routine for juvenile offenders following minor crimes, greater attention should be paid to victim focused models in the aftermath of crime experienced traumatically; these include post-sentencing practices.
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