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Shifting the Focus: Restorative Justice and Sex Work

NCJ Number
Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice Volume: 52 Issue: 3 Dated: June 2010 Pages: 285-301
Jacqueline Lewis
Date Published
June 2010
17 pages
This article explores the use of restorative justice in the Canadian criminal justice system by examining how it has been to put to use with sex workers.
In recent years, governments have taken up the concept of restorative justice (RJ) and added what they refer to as RJ practices to their sentencing arsenal. The manner in which these practices are taken up and implemented, however, typically involves a shift away from the original roots and intent of the concept of RJ and a remodelling of its basic foundations. In North America, the application of RJ to sex work typically takes the form of diversion programs aimed at street-based workers and their clients. The goal of such programs is to demonstrate the harmful nature of the industry and its negative effects on the worker and community, thereby discouraging involvement in it. This article problematizes such an application of RJ principles and argues for a shift in focus, particularly regarding the conceptualization of victim, harm, and reparation needed. As our research indicates, it is the existence and application of public policies aimed at various sectors of the sex-work community, especially the criminal law, that are the primary source of harm for people working in the sex industry (PWSI). The requisite steps for restoring justice and protecting the rights of sex workers are outlined. Notes and references (Published Abstract)