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Christian B.N. Gade

"Restorative Justice": History of the Term's International and Danish Use

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In this article, I explore the historical origin and development of the use of the term “restorative justice” in published sources. The main argument is that the growing popularity of the term and its expanding use makes increasingly blurred what restorative justice is. I begin by investigating the term’s international usage, tracing it back to written sources from the nineteenth century. Then, I cite personal communication with Howard Zehr to describe how his use of the term was inspired by Albert Eglash. Zehr initially popularised the term and, in the 1990s, use of the term expanded. In the 2000s, the term began to appear in United Nations and European Union documents, illustrating that restorative justice had become an internationally recognised approach to justice. After describing this international development, I analyse the Danish context, where the term “restorative justice” began to appear in writings around the year 2000. Around the same time, the existing Danish victim offender mediation programme became connected to restorative justice. Later, Danish practices outside the area of criminal justice became associated with the term. In conclusion, I argue that a potential problem of the expanded use of the term “restorative justice”—both in Denmark and internationally—is that usage may become so broad that the concept loses its meaning.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNordic Mediation Research
EditorsAnna Nylund, Kaijus Ervasti, Lin Adrian
Number of pages14
Publication year2018
ISBN (print)978-3-319-73018-9
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-73019-6
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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