Retributive Justice and Restorative Justice

When people on the news say, “We want justice!” they normally mean that bad deeds should be punished or that they want vengeance. Our judicial, legal, and penal systems are almost entirely based on this idea of retributive justice.

.. Both Jesus and Paul observed the human tendency toward retribution and spoke strongly about the limitations of the law.

.. The biblical notion of justice, beginning in the Hebrew Scriptures with the Jewish prophets–especially Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea–is quite different. If we read carefully and honestly, we will see that God’s justice isrestorative. (This term has only been around for about the last twenty-five years as human consciousness has evolved.) In each case, after the prophet chastises the Israelites for their transgressions against Yahweh, the prophet continues by saying, in effect, “And here’s what Yahweh will do for you: God will now love you more than ever! God will love you into wholeness. God will pour upon you a gratuitous, unbelievable, unaccountable, irrefutable love that you will finally be unable to resist.”

When Restorative Justice in Schools Works

“People were afraid this was going to be a ‘hippy-dippy-granola, nobody’s-going-to-get-into-trouble’ concept,” said Wellington. “This wouldn’t have been successful if we didn’t start slowly and make sure everyone was really on board.”

.. Restorative-justice programs are not without risk, particularly in school settings, and poor implementation can actually make problems worse, according to some experts. In Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second-largest school district, it’s been a bumpy two years since suspensions for classroom misbehavior were banned in favor of a restorative justice model.

.. “We have a proven track record in the American education system of taking things that are working, replicating them quickly and badly and consequently discrediting the otherwise good idea,” said Rotherham, who was a policy advisor to the Clinton White House. “Restorative justice has become a hot issue and everyone wants to do it—but it may not be what every school needs.”