Saturday, November 6, 2010

Retributivism and Restorative Justice

The afternoon panels at CELS also featured wonderful work. First I heard Dena Gromet and John Darley's paper Gut reactions to Criminal Wrongdoing: The Role of Political ideology. In the paper, Gromet and Darley examine whether people's support for a retributive or restorative framework depends on reason considerations, or whether it is a gut reaction. To measure that, they conducted a survey in which they asked respondents' opinions on victims and on offenders, assessing their support for each framework. They also inquired about their political opinion (on a conservative to liberal scale). To measure gut reactions, rather than calm reasoning, they asked respondents these questions under cognitive load (made them memorize an 8-digit number while they responded). They found that the satisfaction with restoration, whether on its own or as added to satisfaction with retributivism, goes up for liberals and down for conservatives with cognitive load. Their conclusion was, therefore, that liberals and conservatives have different intuitive reactions to serious crime: Liberals endorse restoration while conservatives favor retribution.

This paper was followed by Tyler G. Okimoto, Michael Wenzel and N.T. Feather's paper Conceptualizing Retributive and Restorative Justice. Drawing on differences in conception of justice, Okimoto, Wenzel and Feather administered a survey in which they asked respondents a series of question to establish the extent to which they subscribed to two alternative views of justice: the need to empower the victim and degrade the offender, versus the need to heal relationships and reassert consensual social values. They generated a scale that allows measuring where respondents lie along a spectrum of retributive to restorative justice.

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