Publication Date

Spring 5-25-2017

Degree Name

MA in Sustainable Development

First Advisor

John Ungerlieder

Abstract

Restorative justice is an ever growing philosophy which is causing a paradigm shift in the way society understands and responds to crime, punishment and victimization. The State of Vermont has become a pioneer and an example of how to implement restorative practices into the official criminal justice system, developing an alternative process to traditional punitive approaches. However, it is now more important than ever to ensure that there is not a false sense of success or a level of complacency in the further development of restorative practices. It is time to critically analyse the current restorative process and explore the difficult question of whether these practices are doing enough to address the power imbalances caused by systems of privilege and oppression.

This study conducts an Oppression Theory based analysis of the restorative practices taking place at a Vermont Community Justice Center and a Vermont High School. The analysis breaks down the impacts of systems of privilege and oppression at the micro and macro level. At the micro level, it explores how conferred dominance and learned societal behaviours that are dictated by an individual’s social identity groups, can impact their willingness and ability to meaningfully engage in restorative practices. At the macro level, it explores the concept of a societal disequilibrium and the danger of restorative practices perpetuating systems of inequality and oppression.

This study finds that several individuals engaging in the restorative practices it explored did not acknowledge the impacts that systems of privilege and oppression can have of the restorative process. Those who were able to identify the negative effects that inequalities can have on restorative practices, did not appear to have the knowledge or resources to address such issues. Therefore, the author of this study designed “A Restorative Justice Course: Understanding Privilege and Oppression” (pg. 28-49), which is a practical Oppression Theory based framework to help restorative practitioners better understand the impacts of societal inequality. It is an easily accessible, adaptable and implementable framework which can be used to further develop restorative practices and to ensure those who engage in restorative processes do so in a more socially conscious way.

Disciplines

Adult and Continuing Education | Anthropology | Civil Rights and Discrimination | Criminal Law | Curriculum and Instruction | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Educational Leadership | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Leadership Studies | Political Science | Social and Cultural Anthropology