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Restorative Justice: A Transforming Philosophy

Restorative Justice is a philosophy that guides us toward healing and recovery. This approach is the antithesis of retributive justice that settles for determining guilt and naming a punishment. Restorative Justice recognizes clergy sexual misconduct as abuse of individuals and relationships; therefore, the ideal in the new paradigm is healing and restoration for individuals (victim/survivors, second circle victims, and offenders). The Restorative Justice Office would hold the vision of restoration of individuals and relationships for the denomination. An advocate would be the person weaving restoration and justice into the process for victim/survivors.

As you review the following table describing the characteristics and qualities of restorative justice, you will begin to see how this philosophy might be implemented in response to clergy sexual misconduct. Moreover, you will see a reflection of our Unitarian Universalist (UU) principles.

Retributive Justice: Focus on violation of laws or codes.
Restorative Justice: Violation of persons and relationships acknowledged.

Retributive Justice: Victim/survivor hurt ignored.
Restorative Justice: Ministry to victim/survivor is primary.

Retributive Justice: Safety of victim/survivor and second circle ignored.
Restorative Justice: Safety of victim/survivor and second circle is a priority.

Retributive Justice: Silence. Secrets.
Restorative Justice:"Breaking the silence."

Retributive Justice:"Don't air dirty laundry."
Restorative Justice: Victim/survivor's story is heard and affirmed.

Retributive Justice: Organization and offender involved in official process.
Restorative Justice: Victim/survivor informed and consulted at key steps in official process.

Retributive Justice: Rush to conclude episode and avoid further unpleasantness.
Restorative Justice: Respect for a thoughtful, restorative process and time for healing.

Retributive Justice: Perpetrator punished, not included in the hope for restoration and healing.
Restorative Justice: Offender held accountable and given opportunity to offer restitution and sincere apology. (This is not meant to be a substitute for appropriate consequences for misconduct.)

Retributive Justice: Authority or officials respond based on laws and codes, determine guilt, then decide punishment.
Restorative Justice: All steps of process assessed for support of restorative justice for victim/survivor, second circle, and offender.

Retributive Justice: Determination of punishment concludes process.
Restorative Justice: Success of process is measured by the healing and restoration that happens for all affected.

For more information contact safecongregations @ uua.org.

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Last updated on Friday, April 22, 2011.

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