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Restorative Justice: Effective Punishment Addressing The Implications Of Punitive Punishment

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As contentious as the idea of punishment may be, it is one of the most important factors in any society. In order to understand what punishment, it, it is important to understand why we punish individuals. Many scholars have various reasons to why and how we should punish. Some argue that punishment is used as a deterrence method which deters individuals in society from committing crime. Others argue that punishment is used for rehabilitating the offender by changing their attitudes towards deviance. Whatever the reason may be, it is prominent that punishment is a way to deal with an offender who has violated the moral values of society inscribed within the criminal code. Thus, Punishment is a social construction, as it changes over time. As the morals we hold, are often shifting so, do the way in which we punish and how we punish. In the past, punishment was often seen in the form of retribution which involved physical discomfort enforced by the state and viewed by the public. However, punishment has not always remained the same over history and constantly adapted to the social atmosphere of its time. In the present day, penal practices in Canada focus on punitive approaches to deal with offenders. As we attempt to control crime rates through punishment, we continue to use punitive measures to punish individuals in Canada. This paper will analyze current contemporary issues in Canada and display how the punitive measures are failing to effectively deal with wrongdoings, both in the criminal justice system and in school. Furthermore, it will propose alternatives approaches which focus on minimizing the effects for offenders, victims and the community. Punishment does not only impact the offender but has rippling effects on society as a whole. Thus, it is crucial to address the implications of punitive measures and offer new strategies which focus on reintegration and restorative justice which have less adverse consequences for all involved in the punishment process.

In order to understand how to effectively punish wrongdoings, we must address what needs to be fixed. Currently, in Canada we are heavily focused on punitive measures to deal with offenders, thus we need to acknowledge why we choose this approach. Canada has an increasing emphasis on legislation which advocates for punitive penal approaches in the criminal justice system. As Webster and Doob (2015) ague in their article, that Canada’s political parties have altered the perception of crime within the legislation. They argue that until 2006, political parties in Canada advocated that social factors were the determinants of crime (Webster & Doob, 2015, p. 303). However, with the 2006 election and win of the conservative party under Stephen Harper’s rule, the political atmosphere changed. Webster and Doob argue that the conservative party started to follow the footsteps of the United States America and advocate for prisons to be the most effective method to deal with crime (Webster & Doob, 2015, p. 309). Incarceration is the most severe sanction that can be inflicted on a person in Canada (Neil & Carmicheal, 2015, p. 309), yet it is used greatly on its population. Neil and Carmichael also argue how incarceration rates are even higher for minorities and indigenous communities in Canada (Neil & Carmicheal, 2015). Currently, legislation favors punitive action without looking at the consequences it has for offenders, the victims, and the community. These approaches are not only seen in the criminal justice system but in school disciplinary practices.

A way in which we can analyse the implications of punitive approaches is in schools. One of the increasing issues within Canada is its adaption of a punitive punishment-based school system. Lately, Canada has been following the footsteps of the United States as it increases the use of a more security-based school model. One which relies on the use of surveillance, monitoring and tracking to enforce rules in the institution. The implication of this is an increase of more punitive measures used to discipline youth in schools. A growing consequence of the security-based school is the school to prison pipeline (STPP). The school to prison pipeline is a concept used to depict approaches and practices, particularly regarding school discipline, in the government schools that decline the likelihood of school accomplishment for youth and result in the likelihood of negative life results (Kalmin, 2019). Some practices used by current schools within Canada which are used is the excessive reliance on disciplinary actions such as suspension and expulsion (Kalmin, 2019). These sanctions divert the youth from school, thus keeping them from obtaining their education, reducing chances of success in their future and increasing chances of involvement with the criminal justice system (Skiba, Arredondo, & Williams, 2014, p. 551). To illustrate, a study conducted on suspended students found that many suspended students who became delinquent later on in life did not engage in serious delinquency until their first suspension (Skiba, Arredondo, & Williams, 2014, p. 556). Punitive approaches to wrongdoings are not effective, rather they tend to have negative consequences for the offenders. In the case of the school, students who face disciplinary exclusion result in consequences that further decrease their chances of success in the future. Rather than focusing on punitive punishments, we must focus on alternative strategies which reduce negative effects for offenders and victims.

Punitive measures are not only seen in schools but also are prominent in the criminal justice system. Currently, our criminal justice focuses on incarcerating an individual as one of the main options, without looking at the adverse effects of incarceration. Another major factor which arises from punitive measures such as incarceration is stigmatization. Incarceration not only effects a person while they are in captivity, however its influences can follow an individual while they attempt to reintegrate into society. Stigma is when a person is labelled person and linked to an undesirable characteristic, in this context a criminal (Kalmin, 2019). Stigma for imprisonment makes it difficult for past offenders to have any positive involvement in the community. Being labelled as a criminal from the justice system results in many sectors of a person live being influenced. For example, it negatively influences their ability to obtain a job. Thus, making it difficult for offenders to change their lifestyles. Munn argues that stigma and labelling can lead to individuals to be further involved in future criminal behaviors (Munn, 2012, p. 168). Furthermore, stigma can become part of their personal identity as they begin to believe that they are what they have been labelled as (Kalmin, 2019). Prison is viewed as a simple answer to solve crime; however, it comes with many adverse effects for offenders. Current approaches focus on the belief that a crime is committed against the state, there is less involvement of the victims. Punitive approaches of crime fail to involve victims in the justice process which leaves the victim to deal with their own issue themselves. Thus, punitive measures tend not to acknowledge all parties concerns in the justice process. Overall, it can be understood that punitive measures are ineffective when punishing individuals, therefore the rest of the paper will analyse best practices such as reintegration, restorative and therapeutic justice which will reduce negative effects of punishment for the offender, victims and the community.

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Stigma is one of the more detrimental consequences of confinement. Stigmatization follows an individual after their sentence and influences how people and they perceive themselves. Consequently, stigma presents various barriers for reintegration into conventional society. Braithwaite argues the criminal justice system is falling is due to the way in which society shames an individual (Braithwaite, 1996, p. 12). He outlines that the societies with the lowest rates of crime follow practices which effectively shame offenders, unlike stigmatization (Braithwaite, 1996, p. 12). Rather than shaming a person, society should develop a distinction between the person and the crime they committed. Society should express its disapproval of acts, rather than people. Prisons are places where individuals are stigmatized, thus the reliance on them for punitive measures only worsen the problem. Preferably we should develop alternatives which show disapproval of the “evil deed” rather than shaming the person as an ‘evil person” (Braithwaite, 1996, p. 12). Braithwaite (1996) argues that restorative justice can apply this technique through its practices.

Restorative justice can be defined as a practice which restores victims and is a more victim-based criminal justice system model (Braithwaite, 1996, p. 15). However, restorative justice, in addition, maintains an emphasis restoring on offenders and the community, something which our current system fails to do. Restorative justice model benefits all parties involved in the criminal justice system process as it effectively resolves issues by restoring victims and offenders. One way in which restorative justice is displayed is through justice conferences, where the offender and victim parties come together to meditate the issue that occurred. Rather than discussing issues through the criminal justice system, both parties can express their concerns about the crime that was committed. For offenders, this can be utilized to reintegrative shame them rather than stigmatization. As the offender must confront the victim(s) and comprehend how their actions affected the victim(s). Brathwaite argues that this process can restore dignity for the offender (Braithwaite, 1996, p. 18). As the offender often faces public shame from being arrested, this process can restore dignity as they have an opportunity to accept responsibility for their offence and apologize sincerely to the victim (Braithwaite, 1996, p. 18). Furthermore, as Berger argues, experiences of punitive punishments can include pain, loss, and suffering, which can frequently leave impacts on offenders that last more than just the sentence (Berger, 2015, p. 2). Consequently, restorative justice seems more fit of a way to address issues for offenders. Restorative justice practices advocate that rather than individual shaming in the courthouse, the defendant should be allowed to have social support from his family, thus it can reassure that what has been done has brought shame to the family (Braithwaite, 1996, p. 18). Rather then individual guilt, the offender can feel that he/she has someone with them supporting them rather than being alone on the stand.

Restorative justice is for offenders as it can hold them accountable for their actions and be shamed, rather than being stigmatized from the criminal justice system (Braithwaite, 1996, p. 15). Consequently, restorative justice has an emphasis on victim restoration, something which is missing in our current criminal justice system. Brathwaite urges that a victim suffers a loss of dignity and a sense of security when a crime is committed against them (Braithwaite, 1996, p. 15). Moreover, a victim may feel as they are disempowered from the event, such as robbery, a person may feel unsafe in their home or walking on the street. However, restorative justice aims to restore their sense of security and dignity loss. At conferences, victims are allowed to demonstrate how the crime affected them and their families. Furthermore, victims can listen to the accounts of the offenders and examine their perspectives of what occurred. Thus, restorative justice can act as a way to “restore harmony based on a feeling that justice has been done.” (Braithwaite, 1996, p. 18). As Daley demonstrates, victims who attended conferences retained more elevated levels of recovery from the offences compared to victims in court (Daly, 2002, p. 69). However, in practicality, restorative justice comes with its implications which need to be addressed. Daley (2002) argues that restorative justice practices are lenient towards offenders and leave victims dissatisfied. To illustrate, interviews of from offenders, victims and supporters, it was concluded that victims were the least satisfied group after conferences (Daly, 2002, p. 69). Moreover, 25% said they felt worse after the conference due to the leniency towards offenders (Daly, 2002, p. 69). As restorative justice does minimize the adverse effects of punitive measures, it still does not adequately address victims. Therefore, processes in restorative justice need to place an emphasis on victims as they represent the party who has lost the most. In Canada, we need to advocate for restorative justice practices that focus on allowing the victim to have a larger influence in the mediating process. These practices happen to benefit offenders; however, they need to be victim-oriented to achieve the harmony desired among all parties. Overall, restorative justice seems to be one the best and available practice to minimize effects of penal practices on offenders and victims.

In conclusions, punishment has and continues to remain a contentious issue in society. In the present day, we have attempted a variety of approaches to deal with wrongdoings in Canada and none have been perfect. However, as discussed in the essay, punitive approaches have become a norm in the Canadian criminal justice system. Excessive penal practices have also become prominent in dealing with youth in schools. Although the aim for these sanctions is to deter individuals from committing crime, it has adverse consequences for offenders, victims and the community. As discussed, punitive measures in Canada are ineffective when it comes to addressing the concerns of victims. Furthermore, they experience adverse consequences such as stigmatization which further act to punish offenders. Stigmatization also prevents a person from reintegrating into society. As follows, it is substantial to acknowledge further approaches of dealing with wrongdoings which minimize the effects of being punished. This paper provided various approaches such as reintegrative shaming, restorative and therapeutic justice to replace our current strategies. In addition, it outlined how they should be integrated into our criminal justice system. With the incorporation of these strategies, we can hope that it will at least minimize the consequences of punitive approaches used in Canada.


  1. Berger, B. (2015). Sentencing and the Salience of Pain and Hope. Osgoode Hall Law School Legal Studies Research Series, 11(4), 1-23.
  2. Braithwaite, J. (1996). Restorative justice and a better future. The Dalhousie Review, 76(1), 9-31.
  3. Daly, K. (2002). Restorative justice The Real Story. Punishment & Society, 4(1), 55-79.
  4. Kalmin, A (2019) PUNISHMENT CONTINUED: STIGMA, PAROLE AND REINTEGRATION [PowerPoint Slides] Retrieved from York University Moodle Youth crime 3656:
  5. Kalmin, A (2019) THE SCHOOL: DISCIPLINE, PUNISHMENT (AND PREVENTION?) [PowerPoint Slides] Retrieved from York University Moodle Youth crime 3656:
  6. Munn, M. (2012). The Mark of Criminailty. In H. &. Bruckert, Stigma revisited: Implications of the mark (pp. 147-159). Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.
  7. Neil, R., & Carmicheal, J. (2015). The Use of Incarceration in Canada: A Test of Political and Social Threat Explanations on the Variation in Prison Admissions across Canadian Provinces, 2001–2010*. Sociological Inquiry, 309-332.
  8. Skiba, R., Arredondo, M., & Williams, N. T. (2014). More Than a Metaphor: The Contribution of Exclusionary Discipline to a School-to-Prison Pipeline. EQUITY & EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION,, 546-564.
  9. Webster, C. M., & Doob, A. (2015). US punitiveness ‘Canadian Style’? Cultural Values and Canadian Punishment Policy. Punishment & Society, 299-321.

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Restorative Justice: Effective Punishment Addressing The Implications Of Punitive Punishment. (2022, July 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from
“Restorative Justice: Effective Punishment Addressing The Implications Of Punitive Punishment.” Edubirdie, 08 Jul. 2022,
Restorative Justice: Effective Punishment Addressing The Implications Of Punitive Punishment. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 31 Jan. 2023].
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