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Race, Power & Restorative Justice: The dialogue we Never Had

Gavrielides, T. (Forthcoming in 2018). Race, Power & Restorative Justice: The dialogue we Never Had. Abingdon: Routledge. 

ISBN 978-1-4724-8835-0.

Over the last thirty years, restorative justice spread fast across the world occupying scholarly and policy debates principally within the criminal justice arena. The restorative justice literature is rich and yet there are certain areas of theory and practice that remain unexplored.

“Race, Power & Restorative Justice: The dialogue we never had” will be the first book bringing race relations into the restorative justice debate for research, policy and practice. This timely and much needed monograph uses both normative and new empirical data to challenge both adversaries and proponents of restorative justice. Through a multi-disciplinary dialogue that uses social sciences, criminology, law, psychology and human rights, the book will open new avenues for practitioners, researchers and policy makers internationally. 

The book’s intention is to bring to the restorative justice debate a new dimension that is yet to be explored in its own right by Western scholars. This refers to issues surrounding race and inter-cultural relations. Although there have been some studies on issues surrounding diversity (Albercht, 2010), hate incidents (Gavrielides, 2007; 2012; Walters, 2012), power dynamics among participants and facilitators (Gavrielides, 2008; Charkoudian and Wayne, 2010; Schiff, 2013), and mediators’ adequate cultural training (Davidheiser, 2000), the relationship between restorative justice and race remains largely unexplored both normatively and empirically (Hamer, Jenkins and Moore, 2013; Gavrielides, 2014).

Some argue that one of the reasons that restorative justice was brought back into the modern world of policy and practice is the growing disappointment of our criminal justice systems (e.g. Newburn and Crawford, 2002; Pavlich, 2005). These writings tend to quote the increasing incarceration rates, recidivism statistics, the rising costs of justice and the inability to protect the public from current and new forms of criminality. Therefore, it is surprising why race hasn't featured more prominently in the restorative justice discourse. I will call this the ‘paradox of restorative justice’ (Gavrielides, 2014; also see Pavlich, 2005).

We now have enough evidence to safely claim that one of the groups that are let down the most by our criminal justice systems is black and other racially under-represented communities (Kang, 2005; Dorling, 2011). The international literature on disproportionality (e.g. prison population, stop and search, arrests and sentencing patterns), race relations between offenders and criminal justice agents (police, judges, prison and probation staff), the appropriateness of interventions and issues around explicit and implicit racism is rich. Since restorative justice is brought back as a reaction to a failing criminal justice system, a newcomer to restorative justice would expect that its first normative promises and aspirations should have been for those who are let down the most. This ground-breaking monograph will aim to bridge this gap in the restorative justice and race equality literature.

Key objective

As the book's sub-title suggests, the key objective is to have the dialogue that restorative justice and race equality never had. In the first Liz Elliot memorial lecture, Howard Zehr, known as ‘the grandfather of restorative justice’, pointed out that despite the successes of restorative justice, the continues obvious racial disparities in court and prison systems as well as the bureaucratization of restorative programmes are now the key challenges that researchers need to face if the restorative justice movement is to continue. Social change, he suggests, will come from providing an alternative vision of a more caring and safe society as exhibited by creativity and artistry of compassionate people. This “alternative vision” that Zehr speaks about could be provided through the implementation of the restorative justice vision and principles. This book aims to unravel the opportunities that restorative justice offers to race equality, but also the challenges that are associated with it.

Secondary Objectives

The book will also look at race and race equality within the current policy and legislative criminal justice context internationally. Governments are faced with increasing financial pressures to deliver more for less. Priorities are being shifted with an emphasis on costs and efficiency. Issues of equality, including race, do not feature prominently in the many waves of institutional and legislative reforms (Patel and Tyrer, 2001; Gavrielides and Blake, 2013). Equality and race equality are yet to be seen as drivers of reducting costs, increasing productivity or achieving financial success (Gavrielides and Blake, 2013). The book will debate a “business case” for race equality within a restorative justice context.

Second, proposing to treat race as the starting point of our research investigation assumes an attitudinal challenge for many readers and writers. It requires a shift in thinking as race related matters within the context of restorative justice have never been explored in their own right. Traditionally, they have been treated as side issues of various problematic areas of implementation. This caveat will be addressed through the books normative and empirically based arguments.

Third, to have a debate on race for restorative justice, first there needs to be an acknowledgement that such a debate is needed. Many have argued that the “Trojan horses of race” (Kang, 2005) make it difficult for the white decision-maker and researcher to overcome the implicit bias that is ingrained against racial minorities notwithstanding sincere self-reports to the contrary. This sub-conscious resistance is also experienced from non-white groups. For example, this paper assumes an acceptance of the term ‘race’ within a sociological understanding. This might indeed be a challenge for certain countries that seem to be focused on a ‘black’ interpretation of the term. The book will challenge campaigners from the US, UK, Australia, Canada and other parts of the world while empowering those working on the ground with affected marginalised communities with new tools that are detached from stale equality discussions.

Finally, the book will use original data from international case studies to help both theoreticians and practitioners from around to world in using restorative justice for race equality. To this end, the last Part of the book will construct (1) a conceptual normative framework for further theoretical and philosophical development of the topic at hand (2) a practical guide and a model for the implementation of restorative justice practices for race.

Get involved

I am interested to hear your views on the matter. The project is under development and hence your feedback and thoughts will be extremely appreciated. A Call for case studies is also open for online submission.

As fieldwork is planned and remains unsponsored, funders and donors interested in this programme may contact T.Gavrielides@iars.org.uk 

To pre-order the book click here