Constituting Restorative Justice: A Case Study Exploring Volunteers’ Experiences of Meaning
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Restorative Justice (RJ), a model for responding to crime that focuses on addressing harm and restoring the relationships between victim, offender, and community, has gained legitimacy as an effective alternative to lengthy court procedures. As other researchers and RJ theorists have noted, core to restorative justice programing is the inclusion of community members, whether as facilitators in victim-offender conferences, as supporters for offenders in re-entry support circles, or as representatives of community harm in larger sentencing circles. Relying on community volunteers to implement RJ processes has the potential to ensure a core RJ value of increased community involvement in responding to harm and offers a practical mode of supporting this unique response to crime. Despite the value placed on volunteer involvement, the experience of the volunteers who engage with these programs is a significantly understudied aspect of the RJ movement. This research explores the volunteer experience at one of the longest operating RJ programs in North America. Drawing on 16 interviews with volunteers and staff, as well as 35 hours of observation, this research looks at how volunteers frame meaning within RJ and the insights their experience provide about the nature of RJ more broadly. This study traces how volunteer experiences highlight the process by which community members find meaning within RJ through witnessing and sharing narrative of impact, the allure of an RJ when conceived of as an alternative to other models of conflict resolution, and the embedded power relations within the RJ process. As such, it re-centers major debates of the RJ field within the experience of community facilitators and provides significant insights into how RJ is constituted within the volunteer experience.
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Rebekah Smoot-Enns (2018). Constituting Restorative Justice: A Case Study Exploring Volunteers’ Experiences of Meaning. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/13699