This chapter analyzes the extent of restorative justice (RJ) institutionalization in the Netherlands as well as the extent to which the criminal justice system has been transformed by RJ practices.
The analysis reveals that RJ in the Netherlands is mainly growing within informal social contexts and not within the purview of the criminal justice system. The first two sections of the chapter focus on the theoretical underpinnings of institutionalization, with a particular emphasis on the sociological perspective offered by Berger and Luckmann that shows how processes such as RJ practices gain legitimacy and ultimately become institutionalized within society. Current RJ practices in the Netherlands are examined in terms of their actual and potential meanings for the criminal justice system. The author distinguishes between informal RJ practices that are not tied to the formal criminal justice system and RJ practices that are related to the criminal justice system. The most prominent informal contexts to evidence the proliferation of RJ practices are neighborhoods, schools, and the workplace. The author anticipates that RJ practices will develop further within the informal domains of civil law and family problems. RJ practices directly linked to the criminal justice system are also examined and include the HALT program, restorative medication, claims mediation, and family group conferencing. The article next turns to a discussion of the extent of RJ institutionalization in the Netherlands as well as the extent to which the criminal justice system has been transformed by RJ practices. Overall, the author argues that the initiatives taken to expand victim-offender mediation and conferencing in prisons will likely only mediate some of the negative outcomes of the traditional criminal justice system and will not challenge or transform it. Finally, several suggestions are offered on how to maximize the use of RJ practices in the Netherlands and reduce the use of punishment. Notes, references
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