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Document Type

Article

Abstract

Because the painful experience of shame is believed to deter anti-social and criminal conduct, it has long been a staple of our criminal justice system. Its purpose has been to accomplish moral education about the wrongfulness of the crime and to prevent its occurrence through social and self-disapproval. In criminal ADR or "restorative justice" circles, the beneficial effects of "reintegrative" shame are meant to be accomplished by a "restorative justice conference" or "victim-offender mediation" ("VOMS"). These VOMs bring together victims and their loved ones; offenders and their friends and family; and, caring members of the community for the purpose of discussing the consequences of the crime and what can be done to set it right. Restorative justice theorists and practitioners assert that censuring the offender's criminal behavior and its deleterious effect on the victim without stigmatizing him will engender empathy for the victim and accountability in the offender, thus reducing recidivism. Whether participation in a single VOM can accomplish such far-reaching goals has been the subject of much debate in restorative justice circles. This paper suggests that a thorough understanding of the origins and effects of shame by restorative justice theorists and practitioners - together with shame-reducing VOM practices and post-offender shame reduction "recovery" programs - are absolutely necessary if restorative justice is to achieve its rehabilitative goals.