Exploring Communities of Facilitators: Orientations toward Restorative Justice

Date01 December 2013
Published date01 December 2013
Exploring Communities of Facilitators: Orientations
toward Restorative Justice
Gregory D. Paul
Ian M. Borton
Although current research on restorative justice largely has overlooked
facilitators’ roles in victim-off ender conferences, research on third par-
ties suggests that they are more than neutral process guides.  e study
examined in this article involved an exploration of restorative justice
facilitators’ backgrounds, perceived responsibilities, and ideal outcomes
to arrive at a theory of facilitated justice rooted in facilitator orienta-
tion and conference context. Based on individual interviews with facil-
itators from two restorative justice organizations, the results of this study
suggest the presence of four orientations rooted in participant orienta-
tion and outcome orientation.  ese orientations lead to the develop-
ment of a theory of facilitated justice.
Along with violating the law, crimes can create painful consequences for
the parties involved.  is is especially true for victims, who may feel a
heightened sense of anger (Barclay, Skarlicki, and Pugh 2005; Worthington
2003; Worthington and Wade 1999), stress (Berry and Worthington 2001;
Witvliet et al. 2008), moral outrage (Okimoto, Wenzel, and Feather 2009),
and relational isolation (Okimoto et al. 2009; Zechmeister and Romero
2002). Particularly severe crimes may leave victims (and their family and
friends) feeling alienated, betrayed, stripped of their rights, and direction-
less (Armour 2002).
Victims of these crimes are often motivated to “get justice” (Hill,
Exline, and Cohen 2005; Tripp, Bies, and Aquino 2007; Wenzel et al.
2008), which typically means wanting to see the off ender punished some-
how, perhaps by the victims own hands through revenge or through what
C R Q, vol. 31, no. 2, Winter 2013 189
© Wiley Periodicals, Inc. and the Association for Confl ict Resolution
Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com) • DOI: 10.1002/crq.21073
C R Q • DOI: 10.1002/crq
some have called a retributive traditional justice system (Barton 1999;
Braithwaite 1999; Okimoto et al. 2009; Pavlich 2005; Tyler 2006; Zehr
2002; Zernova 2007). Although a guilty verdict can provide a sense of
closure and satisfaction, some victims fi nd the process lacking due to its
inattention to them and the lack of opportunity to talk with the off ender
(Armour 2002; Wenzel et al. 2008; Zehr 2002).
An alternative justice system grounded in restorative justice (RJ) pur-
ports to address these defi ciencies by highlighting victims’ needs, experi-
ences, and stories in the pursuit of justice (Armour and Umbreit 2006;
Braithwaite 2002; Braithwaite and Strang 2001; Johnstone 2002; Johnstone
and VanNess 2007; Pavlich 2005; Zehr 2002). We defi ne RJ as the the-
ory and practice of bringing interested stakeholders safely together in a
reparative setting to deal with the present and future implications of an
off ense (Borton 2009). RJ has been hailed as a constructive and collabora-
tive approach to ensuring the accomplishment of justice and restoration
for victims, off enders, and communities (Braithwaite 2002). Although RJ
ideals are at the core of a number of interventions, we focus here on victim-
off ender conferences (VOCs) in which third-party facilitators work with
victims, off enders, and other stakeholders to construct the meaning of the
off ense, restitution for the event, and their futures in community (Wenzel
et al. 2008). Although such interventions share common characteristics
with other third-party practices such as mediation (Umbreit 2001), VOCs
are unique in their approach to dialogue, the position of the parties, and
the issues being discussed (Van Ness and Strong 2010; Zehr 2002).  us,
although we draw somewhat on third-party research as Umbreit (2001)
did in his discussion of humanistic victim-off ender conferencing, we also
note that facilitation processes and outcomes are unique.
Researchers have prescribed a number of processes and outcomes for
RJ interventions (Armour and Umbreit 2006; Braithwaite 1999, 2002;
Johnstone 2002; Morris 2002; Umbreit 2001; Umbreit, Coates, and Vos
2007; Zehr 2002). For example, they argue that interventions should focus
on meeting victims’ needs and increasing off enders’ awareness and accep-
tance of blame for the harm they caused (Armour and Umbreit 2006;
Johnstone 2002; Umbreit and Ritter 2006). In these interventions, facilita-
tors should set the tone for the meeting, keep the meeting safe, ensure that
the parties show respect for one another, and make sure that they follow the
rules (Dignan et al. 2007; Johnstone 2002; Presser and Hamilton 2006;
Umbreit 2001).

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