Journal of Law and Society Volume: 25 Issue: 2 Dated: June 1998 Pages: 237-256
This paper reviews the theory and policy proposals of recent formulations of abolitionism and restorative justice, and poses challenges to some of the assumptions of abolitionism by considering its applicability to acts of violence against women, children, and minority citizens.
In particular, assumptions that dangerous offenders are few and that the meaning of a harmful act is negotiable between perpetrators and victims are called into question. The symbolic function of criminalization and penalization is discussed, and the author considers whether strategies suggested by recent proponents of forms of abolitionism and restorative justice can satisfy doubts about the adequacy of earlier abolitionist formulations in relation to both symbolic and instrumental functions presently served by criminal law. While calls for further criminalization and penalization of racial, sexual, and domestic violence are understandable, the abolitionist case that retributive justice is more likely to increase rather than to reduce such violence and to leave victims unsatisfied is defended. 56 footnotes