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Abstract

Restorative justice has been expanding for decades in the U.S. as an alternative or compliment to the traditional criminal justice system. But it’s still infrequently used with adults who have committed violent crimes, as opposed to more gently treated teenage offenders. After talking with a small group of former offenders and facilitators who participated in a restorative justice program in Texas prisons, I found that offenders begin the restorative justice program interpreting themselves as victims. Displacing blame and culpability onto others rather than reckon with the harm they committed, offenders feel persecuted by a system that does not acknowledge their complicated identities of being both harmer and harmed. The restorative justice program in which they participated, Bridges To Life, offers acknowledgement and acceptance, thereby encouraging offender accountability and forgiveness through its ideological construct of a benevolent God.

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