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Constructing the "Complex" Offender in Restorative Justice

1:00pm - 2:00pm / Wednesday 17th May 2023 / Online event
Type: Webinar / Category: Department
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Restorative justice has become an increasingly politicized and contested response to crime that strives to meet victims’ needs, hold offenders accountable, and address the harm done by victimization. As communities of practice continue to shape restorative justice as a “boundary object” – a space defined by competing values, philosophies, and interests – scholars caution that it offers a simplistic and conceptually shallow understanding of the offender and fails to account for the complexity of their realities and experiences. In this presentation I develop the concept of the “complex” offender – a multidimensional view of individuals who come into conflict with the law by committing crime, but also face social injustice such as poverty, racial inequality, and other forms of discrimination. Drawing on critical victimological scholarship, I explore the experiences of “complex” offenders in restorative justice through a qualitative research study that examines research data from eighteen interviews with restorative justice practitioners, victims, and offenders. I interrogate the often taken-for-granted category of “offender” and consider the process of social signification of victimization to position the complexity of offenders’ experiences as the focal point of its inquiry. I interrogate the process through which restorative justice practitioners engage in performative and discursive labour to re-interpret and re-imagine offenders’ social identities and experiences. I also explore how offenders negotiate, politicize, and mobilize their victim statuses as participants in the restorative justice process to bring attention to their social locations and structural violence that they may encounter as part of their everyday realities.