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Parents of young offenders: remodelling restorative justice
New practices have taken root internationally in the last two decades that identify with a developing theory called 'restorative justice'. Typical restorative forums involve a facilitator, the offender, the victim, their mutual supporters and communities in open discussion of the crime. Restorative justice seeks to empower these key stakeholders to repair the harm - emotional and material - of crime. The most widespread restorative forums in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom are those that are oriented towards young offenders. They differ in perspective, format and name. One generic term for these forums is youth conferencing or simply conferencing. In many conferences the participants agree upon undertakings for young people to repair the damage caused by their offences.
This article expands earlier arguments made by the author4 concerning the work of John Braithwaite5 and his theory of reintegrative shaming. His theory has been highly influential in restorative practice, particularly in Australia. The earlier paper argued that Braithwaite was incorrect to portray parents as inherently similar to any other supporter who might participate in a forum for a young offender, such as a conference. Rather, both psychology literature and qualitative observations of parents' behaviour in conferences suggest that parents and children have a unique type of human relationship that can have an immense impact upon a conference. Braithwaite also recommended shaming parents. Evidence was presented to assert that shaming parents is dangerous. Amongst other possibilities, parents may be stigmatized and this may ultimately aggravate tensions in the offender's home environment.This article moves away from reintegrative shaming theory and psychology literature. It makes three new contributions. First, it analyses the place of parents in the wider restorative justice literature and recommends new directions in theory. Secondly, it introduces the concept of the 'contributor-victim paradox' - a term used to describe the fact that parents may simultaneously be cast as, or feel that they are, contributors to and victims of the offence committed by their child. Thirdly, the paper makes a number of suggestions for practitioners regarding managing parents in a way that maximizes restorative justice. This paper draws on observations of 67 conferences between 2000 and 2003, including the 34 observed conferences used for the original paper. No real consideration is made of the complexities of relationships between youths and stepparents or adoptive parents. In the main this is because of a lack of qualitative data pertaining to that situation.
Publication titleUniversity of Tasmania Law Review
Department/SchoolFaculty of Law
PublisherUniversity of Tasmania, Faculty of Law
Place of publicationHobart
Rights statementCopyright 2009 Faculty of Law, University of Tasmania