While approaches and protocols for dealing with offenders and
victims have been well established, the role of
has been given far less attention (McCold). What do we mean
"the community"? How does
"the community" fit
into the RJ framework? What are the needs of communities arising from
criminal conflict? How can
"community" be utilized in a
society - and especially a society as pluralistic as Canada? Above all,
what is the role of charitable and non-profit organizations within
"the community" component of RJ?
Nils Christie's seminal paper
in the literature on RJ,
property," published in 1977, set the tone for debates about
community" He argued that a criminal act is an injury to
personal relationships. This injury is the
those involved, namely, the victim, the offender and the community.
According to Christie, the criminal justice system has
this property from local communities. Hence, the argument that
the state, represented by the courts, functions as a barrier and
prevents offenders and victims from discussing, resolving and
making restitution for circumstances that led to the criminal act.
his paper Restorative Justice: The Role of the Community (1995), Paul
describes the community's needs and
responsibilities. He argues that communities need:
- A sense of
justice when criminal conflict occurs;
- The power to resolve conflicts;
ability to re-establish peaceful relationships and reintegrate
the victim and the offender;
- A sense of safety and hopefulness;
actions to prevent the reoccurrence of similar conflicts.
also describes a number of promising models that can be utilized
to achieve these objectives.
But how can citizens become
engaged in resolving criminal conflict in their community, Raymond
contemporary justice only occurs after an incident has violated a
criminal statute? How is
"the community" to act when the
criminal justice system becomes very actively involved, for
example, in instances of extreme violence? Shonholtz points
out that the focus of prevention is distinctly outside of our
current legal system. Are public policies sufficiently developed
for the creation of citizen-based community justice?
(1997) offers some clarification regarding the role of government.
that since law is intended to have
application throughout society, it must be reconfigured in more
pluralistic terms. This will help to re-conceptualize the law in
several new ways. He advances the argument that postmodern
"a vast, endlessly shifting diversity of
interests, values, projects and commitments of individuals,
expressed and pursued through multiple, transient memberships
of collectivities of many different kinds" (Cotterell 77). This
view of society is really a description of political society -
territorially defined area of social interaction regulated by a
specific political system." This concept of society then becomes
unwittingly connected with the state and the functions of the state.
Borrowing from Anthony Cohen's work, The Symbolic
Construction of Community (London: Routledge, 1985), Cotterell
prefers to think of
"community" not as a social structure but as
web of understanding about the nature of social relations" (78).
Community, the legal concept of community, viewed in this way
is much more compatible with the
"community" described by
advocates of RJ.
These remarks suggest that much more work is required
to outline the functions of
"community" and its responsibilities within
the context of Restorative Justice. As far as the role of charitable
organizations and non-profit societies is concerned, our work in
this regard has only begun.
Canada. Solicitor General Canada. Restorative Justice:
Directions and Principles - Developments in Canada. By Robert B. Cormier.
Solicitor General Canada, 2002.
Christie Nils. Crime as property.
British Journal of Criminology 1977; 17:1-15.
Roger. A legal concept of community. Canadian
Journal of Law and Society
Levinson David, ed. Encyclopedia
of Crime & Punishment.
2002, Volume 3. Sage Publications, 1388-1389.
Restorative Justice: The role of the community.
International Institute for Restorative Practices  Online:
Shonholtz Raymond. The
citizen's role in justice: Building a
Primary Justice and Prevention System at the Neighborhood
Level. Annals of the American Academy of Political
& Social Science, 1987; 494 (November): 42-53.
Principles of the Law of Restitution. Clarendon Press Oxford,
H. Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and
PA: Herald Press,
We are pleased to announce the appointment of Bev
Tweedle as Office Manager/Executive Assistant of the John
Howard Society of Alberta. Bev joined the office in
November 2003, stepping into the vacancy created by the
departure of Sharon Wilson. Bev came to JHSA from the
Elizabeth Fry Society of Edmonton and brings, in addition to
her considerable office and administration skills and
experience, a Diploma in Social Work, and experience as a
case worker in the human services field.