I’ve been reading some more of Robert Weisberg’s scholarship in anticipation of his visit. I enjoyed his thoughtful, if ultimately somewhat equivocal, reflections on restorative justice at 2003 Utah L. Rev. 343. In a sense, his comments here pick up where his critique of Dan Kahan leaves off (see this post). He is concerned that Kahan’s proposals to build and enforce community norms through the criminal-justice system may, in practice, become a vehicle for the sort of harsh populism that has so dominated our politics of crime and punishment. Similarly, his critique of restorative justice focuses on the sloppy and potentially dangerous ways that RJ proponents invoke the idea of “community” as a basis for criminal-justice reform.
Those who have spent some time reading the RJ literature will immediately recognize the centrality of community to the RJ rhetoric. The term carries many positive connotations, and is often used by RJ proponents to suggest a fundamentally different level of social organization than the “state” or other politically defined groupings. (more…)