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Are conflicts property? Re-examining the ownership of conflict in restorative justice
journal contributionposted on 07.10.2020, 00:00 by WR Wood, Masahiro SuzukiMasahiro Suzuki
Nils Christie’s concept of ‘conflicts as property’ has become axiomatic within restorative justice (RJ) as justification for victim involvement and redress, offender accountability and reintegration, and community involvement in RJ conferencing practices. In this article, we revisit the concept of conflicts as property as a theoretical premise for the use of RJ. We suggest that restorative conferencing practices used to address criminal matters in most English-speaking countries or jurisdictions evidence many of the same concerns voiced by Christie four decades ago in his critique of the ‘stealing’ of conflicts more rightly owned by victims, offenders and communities. We further argue that the institutionalisation of RJ has embedded its practices into highly unequal justice systems, with little evidence of how RJ may enable people or communities to ‘own’ conflicts in ways that do not mirror existing lines of social marginalisation and inequality.