Transformative Justice as a Response to Child Abuse

I.      Introduction: Recognizing Child Abuse as a Tool of Oppression

Fundamentally, child abuse is about the abuse of power.  It can be seen as the start of patriarchy, an unjust social construct that oppresses to target groups.  Child abuse furthers the aim of patriarchy by taking power away from people early on and potentially keeping them from accessing their power throughout their lives.[1]  Therefore, the patriarchy has an interest in perpetuating child abuse and does so (whether intentionally or not) by creating oppressive systems and other social mechanisms that reproduce and exert dominant culture oppression over target groups, including children.

The purpose of this paper is to argue for the use of a response to child abuse that is not also itself oppressive and that works toward dismantling the oppressive system in which oppressive practices such as child abuse thrive.

A.    Child Abuse Defined

United States federal legislation lays the groundwork for each state by identifying a minimum set of acts or behaviors that define child abuse and neglect.[2] The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act,[3] as amended by the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003, defines child abuse and neglect as, at a minimum:

  • Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or
  • An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

All states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands provide civil definitions of child abuse and neglect in statute or, in the case of Massachusetts, regulation.  States recognize the different types of abuse in their definitions, including physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse.  Some states also provide definitions in statute for parental substance abuse and/or for abandonment as child abuse.[4]

B.    Child Abuse Statistics

Based on a review of research conducted on child abuse between 2000 and June 2008, researchers estimate that 4% to 16% of children are physically abused each year in the United States. As many as 15% are neglected, and up to 10% of girls and 5% of boys suffer severe sexual abuse; many more are victims of other sexual injury. Yet researchers say that as few as 1 in 10 of those instances of abuse are actually confirmed by social-service agencies — and that measuring the exact scope of the problem is nearly impossible.[5]

II.    Current Response to Child Abuse: Punitive System

“When a child is physically beaten or sexually abused, the ideal set of events is that doctors treat the injuries, therapists counsel the child, social services works with the family, police arrest the offender, and attorneys prosecute the case.” 

– U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.[6]

This society’s current response to child abuse rests primarily upon a host of oppressive systems, including the current legal system, which triggers the use of others including the medical industrial complex (which includes doctors and therapists) and social services.

A retributive, or punitive, system is the legal system currently implemented by the dominant culture in our society. [7]  Simply put, the punitive system is based upon a theory of justice that responds to “crimes” (i.e., actions that are proscribed by one or more existing laws) with a level of punishment deemed appropriate by society.  It also includes other concepts such as preventing those who have committed crimes from committing additional crimes and deterring others from committing crimes.  At its core, however, the primary concern of the punitive system is to measure crimes by their damage to society and enforce the rule of law (as well as the more abstract principles of fairness and morality).  “Justice” is sought primarily for the sake of “justice”, as opposed to for its protective effects.

A.    The Punitive System Perpetrates Dominant Culture Oppression

The punitive system is a powerful institutional perpetrator of dominant culture oppression for a number of reasons. 

1.    The Punitive System Disproportionately Punishes Target Groups

The justice system’s bias against women; people who are low-income, queer, differently-abled and/or immigrants; and other target groups, in particular, people of color, is well-documented.  From policing to sentencing to incarceration, people of color are disproportionately negatively impacted.[8]

As one study found, “Retributive justice… aims to restore both victim and offender to their appropriate positions relative to each other.”[9]  If this is true, it’s no surprise that retributive, or punitive, systems would serve to maintain the status quo by oppressing those communities that are already oppressed.

2.    The Punitive System Fails to Acknowledge or Address the Oppression of Target Groups

Furthermore, the punitive system fails to take into account the social oppression and systemic violence that gave rise to the criminalized behavior in the first place.  Instead of working to transform the systems that gave rise to the behavior, the punitive system takes on the superficial and shortsighted task of punishing the behavior itself. 

For example, research suggests that children from families that are lower income – an issue which disproportionately impacts African American communities – are more likely to be spanked.[10]  Researchers have also suggested that corporal punishment was an adaptive behavior that African Americans’ ancestors developed during their brutal enslavement in the United States, and that has been passed down through generations with detrimental and destructive consequences.[11]  It is therefore no surprise that corporal punishment rates are higher in the African American community than among any other ethnic group. [12]   Nevertheless, the punitive system would punish parents for using corporal punishment, while ignoring the fact that social and economic injustice – primary risk factors for the use of corporal punishment – are direct results of dominant culture oppression.

3.    The Punitive System Is More Likely to Address Allegations of Harm Inflicted Upon Dominant Culture than Committed By the Dominant Culture

And finally, the punitive system is more likely to address those allegations of harm that further, or at least do not disrupt, dominant culture oppression.  In her article “Abuse Excuse and Patriarchal Narratives,” Mary E. Becker argues that claims of childhood sexual abuse are less likely to be believed when the claims contradict patriarchal narratives and call into question patriarchal privileges.  She further argues that claims of childhood abuse are more likely to be presumed accurate when they are consistent with patriarchal narratives and do not threaten patriarchal privilege.[13]  And so in this way as well, the punitive system perpetuates dominant culture oppression.

B.    The Punitive System Does Not Deter Crime

Evidence supports the notion that the punitive system is not effective at either deterring crime, or keeping formerly incarcerated individuals from committing future crimes.  A study conducted by The Sentencing Project,[14] a research and advocacy organization working for a fair and effective U.S. criminal legal system, demonstrates that there is no strong correlation between prison populations and crime rates.  This lack of correlation bolsters the claim that there is no strong relationship between imprisonment and crime.

C.    The Punitive System Triggers The Use of Other Oppressive Systems

As implied by the quote from the Report published by the U.S. Department of Justice above, it is the ideal of the punitive system that abused children be treated by doctors and counseled by therapists, and that child abuse cases be handled by social services workers.  Unfortunately, these systems can also serve as tools of oppression.

1.    The Medical-Industrial Complex is a Tool of Oppression

The concept of the medical-industrial complex was first introduced in the 1971 book, The American Health Empire: Power, profits, and politics.[15]  The medical-industrial complex refers to the health industry, which is composed of a number of multibillion-dollar enterprises that includes not only doctors, but also hospitals, nursing homes, insurance companies, drug manufacturers, hospital supply and equipment companies, real estate and construction businesses, health systems consulting and accounting firms, and banks.  The concept conveys the idea that an important (if not the primary) function of the health care system in the United States is business (that is, to make profits) with two other secondary functions, research and education.  Certainly any system that prioritizes profits over people[16] is inherently discriminatory[17] against low-income communities.

a)    The Medical-Industrial Complex’s History of Discrimination and Oppression

The history of the medical-industrial complex is replete with examples of the execution of unethical practices targeted at underserved communities.  For example, from the era of slavery to the present day, there exist countless horrific examples of the medical-industrial complex subjecting African Americans to a string of shocking mistreatment as unwilling and unwitting experimental subjects.[18]  Many people are aware of the infamous Tuskegee experiments, in which black syphilitic men were studied but not treated despite the existence of an effective treatment (penicillin) and were prevented from accessing syphilis treatment programs available to others in the area.[19]  And as horrific as this is, it is just one example of the medical-industrial complex’s long and continuing history of atrocities perpetrated upon oppressed communities.

b)   Discriminatory Disparities Found at All Levels of Health Care

Given the history of the medical-industrial complex, it’s no surprise that there is plenty of evidence demonstrating that racial, ethnic, and language-based disparities remain present in health care and at all levels.  The Institute of Medicine released one of several prominent studies documenting this problem.[20]  The report states that people of color tend to receive a lower quality of healthcare than whites, even when access-related factors, such as patients’ insurance status and income, are controlled.  The sources of these disparities, the study continued, involve many participants at all levels, including health systems, their administrative and bureaucratic processes, utilization managers, healthcare professionals, and patients.  Similar evidence suggests that disparities exist according to gender and disability status as well.

2.    The Need for Therapists With A Cross-Cultural Perspective

Therapy, another key part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s suggested response to child abuse, is an important tool in helping families prevent, detect, report, and work through child abuse.  However, in order to assure that the therapy serves all populations – not just the dominant culture – it is important to educate therapists appropriately.  Without more education in this area, lacking a cross-cultural perspective in defining child abuse can negatively impact the treatment of people who are from different cultural backgrounds than their therapists.[21] 

Currently, there is a void in the literature in the area of outlining culturally sensitive techniques to be used during the implementation of sexual abuse prevention program.  And statistics show that 83.7% of traditional counselors are white.[22]  This means a therapist’s lack of cross-cultural perspective is most likely to be harmful to communities of color.

3.    The Reality of Discriminatory Disparities in the Application of Social Services

Low-income families are the most likely to end up in the child welfare branch of social services whether they have maltreated their children or not.  This is not because poor families are less kind.  It is not even necessarily because poor families tend to be under greater stress than wealthier families.  (Stress is a known risk factor for child abuse.)  In many cases, it is simply because poor families have less options that they can afford, resulting in findings of child abuse even when they have exercised the best options available to them.[23]

Studies tell us that there also exist racial disparities that cannot be explained by poverty alone.[24]  Multiple studies have shown that child maltreatment is experienced across races at approximately the same rates.  Yet, even if we remove poverty from the equation, children of color are less likely to receive services and more likely to be removed from their homes.[25]  For example, African American children represent 15% of the general child population, but comprise approximately 42% of the children in Child Welfare Services.[26] 

As an author of one of these studies writes, “The real culprit appears to be our own [social workers’] desire to do good and to protect children from perceived threats and our unwillingness to come to terms with our fears, deeply ingrained prejudices, and ignorance of those who are different from us.”  According to the author, these factors result from race or culture bias (frequently unintended) that pervades the field of social work.[27]

In social services, as in therapy, the lack of cross-cultural sensitivity is disproportionately detrimental to communities of color.  It is typical for young, female white social workers to be responsible for investigating allegations of child abuse in neighborhoods they are unfamiliar with and often feel unsafe in themselves.  This often affects their judgment on whether the place is safe for the child.  In other words, it is the largely unconscious stereotypes and prejudices of white social workers that are often used to justify the “rescue” of children from environments with which the social workers are unfamiliar.[28]

D.    Conclusion: The Punitive System Furthers Oppression

In short, the punitive system is an oppressive remedy to address the oppressive practice of the abuse of children, even more so in the case of those children who themselves or whose family members identify as a member of a target group.

III.  Alternatives to the Punitive System

Two commonly proposed systems considered as viable alternatives to the punitive system are restorative justice and transformative justice.  In terms of addressing child abuse, both systems have their strengths and weaknesses.

A.    Strengths and Weaknesses of Restorative Justice as a Response to Child Abuse

Restorative justice is a theory of justice that views what is called “crime” in the punitive system – i.e., when one person inflicts harm upon another – primarily as a conflict between individuals that results in harm to communities and the actor as well as to the individual most directly harmed.  (It views the harm only secondarily as a violation against the state.)  The aim of restorative justice is to create peace in communities by reconciling the parties and repairing the harm arising from the conflict. 

1.    Restorative Justice is Crisis Oriented

Fundamental to any restorative process is that it facilitates active participation by victims, offenders, and their communities after a conflict has occurred in order to find solutions to the conflict.[29]  In this sense, restorative justice is reactive, or crisis-oriented.  In other words, if there is no overt conflict, the use of restorative justice would not be triggered.  This is true even if the structure of the society serves to oppress certain segments of the population.  Given the traumatic nature of child abuse, a strategy that addresses the abuse before it occurs is significantly superior to one that does not address it until after.

2.    Restorative Justice Requires the Participation of the Perpetrator

Child abuse – particularly child sexual abuse – is one of the most stigmatized and demonized forms of violence.  Most people who sexually abuse children actively deny their activities even when they are caught or confronted.  There are many possible reasons for this.  Certainly, there are emotional, social, and material rewards for denying child sexual abuse. It is easier to actively deny the abuses than to face the consequences of having committed abuse, including the threat to relationships, the threat of incarceration, the loss of public standing and reputation, and the threat to a sense of acceptance and belonging within one’s family, community, and society.  Furthermore, there are almost no rewards for accountability.  Socially, there is no incentive to disclose acts child sexual abuse.  On the contrary, the typical community response is demonization, ostracization, and vigilantism.[30]

Without a support system for offenders in place, it is likely that those who have engaged in acts of abuse will continue to deny allegations leveled against them even with the application of the restorative justice system.  And if the offender refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing and/or participate in the process, restorative justice cannot move forward.  

3.    Restorative Justice Focuses on Restoring the Community – Even if the Structure or Underpinning Dynamics of the Community are Unjust

We must also consider the demographic, social, and cultural context in which restorative justice developed.  Restorative justice has strong and crucial roots in indigenous communities and practices.[31]  The purpose of restorative justice is to “restore” the community and make it whole again.  With its focus on making the community whole, it does little to directly address the larger system in which it rests.  More specifically, while restorative justice recognizes that our current system is flawed, overworked, and retributive, it does not address why it exists; whom it benefits; how it is racist, sexist, abelist, classist, and otherwise oppressive; and how it was developed.  Nor does it work toward ending these forms of oppression.

This is understandable.  These issues were not of as great concern to the communities from which restorative justice was developed, nor are they in societies in which restorative justice is currently used.[32]  These concerns are, however, highly relevant to our large, diverse, contemporary society where child abuse, patriarchy, and other dominant culture oppression is prevalent.

4.    Restorative Justice Would Likely Include Elements of the Punitive System, Including its Oppressive Qualities

Even if restorative justice were adopted, it would likely include the adoption of the punitive system in certain cases.  (Most, if not all, advocates of restorative and transformative justice acknowledge the need for incarceration in extreme cases.)[33]  However, because of its restorative (rather than transformative) quality, it is possible that any elements of the punitive system that are adopted under a restorative justice system will be adopted without change.  Therefore, those same injustices that currently exist in the punitive system – including the injustices that exist in the other oppressive systems that the punitive system triggers – would quite possibly remain in effect even in a restorative justice system. [34]

5.    Conclusion: Restorative Justice is Unlikely to Be Effective In Ending Child Abuse

Given the unjust application of the current punitive, medical, and social services systems, as well as the dubious efficacy of punishment in general, restorative justice has many benefits over the punitive system.  However, restorative justice is not sufficiently pro-active given the high cost of child abuse.  Also, restorative justice offers no support to the perpetrator, thereby decreasing the likelihood of perpetrator participation, which in turn precludes the use of restorative justice systems.

Furthermore, restorative justice does not seek to transform or otherwise change the current community or the oppressive systems upon which the community (and, in certain cases, restorative justice itself) relies.  Therefore, given that the oppressive systems have an interest in perpetuating child abuse, restorative justice is unlikely to make significant progress toward the ending of child abuse. 

B.    Strengths and Weaknesses of Transformative Justice as a Response to Child Abuse

Transformative justice is a theory of justice that recognizes that the root of every act of harm, violence, or abuse was borne from the seeds of other systems of oppression: racism, classism, trans- and homophobia, ableism, misogyny.  Rather than seeking punishment, retribution, or restoration of the community without consideration of currently existing socio-political and economic issues, transformative justice seeks safety and accountability.

1.    Core Beliefs that Form the Basis of Transformative Justice

Transformative justice is based upon the following three core beliefs.  First, it is based upon the belief that individual justice and collective liberation are equally important, mutually supportive, and fundamentally intertwined—the achievement of one is impossible without the achievement of the other.  Second, transformative justice is based upon the belief that the conditions that allow violence to occur must be transformed in order to achieve justice in individual instances of violence.  Third, transformative justice is based upon the belief that state and systemic responses to violence, including the criminal legal system and child welfare agencies, not only fail to advance individual and collective justice but also condone and perpetuate cycles of violence.[35]  In other words, like restorative justice, transformative justice supports moving away from the punitive system.  Unlike restorative justice, however, transformative justice recognizes that the oppressive systems currently in place perpetuate violence and seeks to transform them.

2.    Transformative Justice is Proactive

An act of harm committed by one individual upon another is not necessary to trigger the use of transformative justice because transformative justice rests upon the assumption that the harm has already occurred. [36]  The harm is the existence and perpetration of a society and systems that oppress target groups.  As such, the goals of the transformative justice process would include moving a non-protective bystander toward taking action to stop violence before it starts, creating accountability, and engaging in the transformation.  It would also include includes building community responsibility for creating conditions that provide opportunities for accountability and change, including the transformation of abusive power dynamics in all areas.[37]  And its goals would include the transformation of any other existing oppressive systems (such as social services and the medical industrial complex).

3.    Transformation Occurs By Holding Abusers, Bystanders, and the Community At Large Accountable

Transformative justice hinges on the existence of mechanisms of accountability. Transformative justice seeks to provide people who experience violence with immediate safety and long-term healing and reparations.  At the same time, it holds people who commit violence accountable within and by their communities, while also having compassion for their histories.  This accountability includes stopping immediate abuse, making a commitment to not engage in future abuse, and offering reparations for past abuse.  Such accountability requires on-going support and transformative healing for people who have been abused as well as their abusers.[38]

Transformative justice also recognizes that communities themselves create the conditions that allow violence to occur within them.  Therefore, transformative justice also supports communities in intervening and radically changing the analysis and behavior of those who perpetrate abuse and seeks concrete accountability from bystanders for their collusion with violence, while also having compassion for their histories.[39]

These measures help to keep abuse from recurring.  They also empower former perpetrators and others to take some responsibility in recognizing, curbing, and challenging abusive and harmful behavior around them.[40]

4.    Transformative Justice Would Likely Decrease Reliance Upon Oppressive Systems Currently In Use

Although it does not directly address other oppressive systems, the adoption of transformative justice is intended to decrease the oppressive nature of those systems and, in some cases, eliminate the need for them altogether.  For example, most, if not all, advocates of transformative justice acknowledge the need for incarceration in extreme cases.  Therefore, it may be that even in a transformative justice system, some elements of the punitive system may remain.  However, as a result of its reliance on community accountability, transformative justice offers a viable alternative in less extreme cases to calling the police or otherwise triggering the use of oppressive systems such as the prison-industrial complex (a key component in the punitive system).  And, as a result of the system’s focus on transforming oppressive practices, it is likely that any punitive elements that do remain would be implemented very differently than they are today.  Also, as a result of its focus on healing abusers, other systems would also be directly impacted (e.g., social services would be less likely to result in children being taken away from their homes).

IV.  Conclusion: Transformative Justice Has the Power to End Oppression at the Individual Level and the Societal Level

“Inextricably linked to [our commitment to transformative justice] is our commitment to achieving a totally different world, one that realizes racial justice, queer liberation, the love and empowerment of all bodies, ages [and] abilities.”[41]

– Philly  Stands Up

Oppressive systems perpetuate child abuse.  The punitive system is oppressive in and of itself.  And a restorative justice system, while healing the individual, would largely serve to maintain current levels of oppression at the societal level.  Transformative justice, however, is intended to heal the individual and the community and to transform oppression in all areas of society.  If we wish to end child abuse, we must begin to explore transforming oppression generally and transformative justice specifically.




Resources for parents

10 Things to Do Before You Lose Your Cool

7 Steps to Protecting Our Children{64AF78C4-5EB8-45AA-BC28-F7EE2B581919}/7%20Steps%20to%20Protecting%20Our%20Children.pdf


Resources for victims of child abuse and adult survivors of childhood abuse

Why can't I get on with my life? – Some impacts of childhood sexual abuse on the life of adult survivors

Help for Adult Victims Of Child Abuse

Adult Survivors of Child Abuse: ASCA


[1] Generation Five.  (2007, June).  Toward Transformative Justice.  Retrieved from

[2] Most federal and state child protection laws primarily refer to cases of harm to a child caused by parents or other caregivers; they generally do not include harm caused by other people, such as acquaintances or strangers.

[3] The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act can be found at 42 United States Code Annotated, Title 42, The Public Health and Welfare, Chapter 67, Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment and Adoption Reform, Subchapter I, General Program, Section 5106g, Definitions.

[4] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Administration for Children and Families; Administration on Children, Youth and Families; Children’s Bureau.  (2011, February).  Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect.  Retrieved from

[5] Sharples, T.  (2008, December 2).  Study: Most Child Abuse Goes Unreported.  Retrieved from Time’s website at,8599,1863650,00.html#ixzz2RowDkpY5.

[6] U.S. Department of Justice; Office of Justice Programs; Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.  (2001, March).  Law Enforcement Response to Child Abuse.  Retrieved from pdffiles/162425.pdf.

[7] In its report Toward Transformative Justice (see footnote 1), regarding the criminal justice system Generation Five states, “We employ the term ‘criminal legal system’ instead of the term ‘criminal justice system.’ This is because we question the premise that the legal system seeks, let alone delivers, justice.”  Similarly here, given the punitive system’s inherently unjust discriminatory and oppressive nature as explored in this paper, I will use the term “punitive system” rather than “punitive justice system.”

[8] Political Research Associates. (2005). How is the Criminal Justice System Racist?  Retrieved from

[9] Maiese, M.  (2004, May).  Retributive Justice.  Retrieved from Beyond Intractability’s website at

[10] Landsburg, S.  (2002, December 9).  Beat on the Brat: The economics of spanking.  Slate.  Retrieved from

[11] Grier, W. H., & Cobbs, P.M.  (1968).  Black Rage.  United State of America: BasicBooks.

[12] Siek, S.  (2011, November 10). Researchers: African-Americans most likely to use physical punishment. Retrieved from

[13] Becker, M.E.  (1998).  Abuse Excuse and Patriarchal Narratives.  Northwestern University Law Review, 92(4), 1459-1480.  doi: NCJ 17885.  In her article, Becker explains that, as a result of patriarchal cultural believes, people would tend to disbelieve an adult woman who confronts her father for sexually abusing her during her childhood or a wife in the process of divorcing her husband who accuses him of sexually abusing one or more of their children.  The author explains that, as a result of those same patriarchal cultural beliefs, people would tend to believe a heterosexual parent who, during a divorce, claims custody or argues for severe restrictions on visitation by a homosexual parent on the ground that the gay or lesbian parent has abused or is likely to abuse the child, or a lesbian who reports having been sexually abused as a child in a setting that does not involve a suit against her father or other confrontation with him. 

[14] The Sentencing Project.  (2005).  Incarceration and Crime: A Complex Relationship.  Retrieved from

[15] Ehrenreich, B., & Ehrenreich, J.  (1971).  The American Health Empire: Power, profits, and politics.  New York, NY: Vintage Books.

[16] Mahar, M. (2006). Money-Driven Medicine. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

[17] American Nurses Association.  (1998, March 26).  Discrimination and Racism in Health Care.  Retrieved from

[18] Washington, H.A.. (2008).  Medical Apartheid.  Harpswell, ME: Anchor.

[19] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  (2011, June 15).  U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee.  Retrieved from  David Feldshuh wrote a stage play in 1992 based on the history of the Tuskegee study, titled Miss Evers’ Boys.  It was a runner-up for the 1992 Pulitzer Prize in drama.  In 1997 it was adapted for an HBO made-for-TV movie. The HBO adaptation was nominated for two Golden Globes, and won one, and eleven Emmy Awards.  At the Emmy Awards, the film won in four categories and was also awarded the prestigious President’s Award.

[20] Smedley, B.D., Stith, A.Y., and Nelson, A.R. (2003.) Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care (with CD). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

[21] Millán, F. and Rabiner, S.  (1992) Toward a culturally sensitive child sexual abuse prevention program for Latinos.  Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless, 1, pp 311-320.  Retrieved from

[22] Rauch, S.  (2005).  A Descriptive Study on the Differences Between Body Psychotherapists and Traditional Counselors.  Retrieved from

[23] National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.  (2011, October 8).  Child Abuse and Poverty.  Retrieved from

[24] McRoy, R.G. (2004).  The Color of Social Policy, Chapter 3: The Color of Child Welfare.  Alexandria, VA : Council on Social Work Education.

[25] Cross, T.L. (2008). Disproportionality in child welfare. Child Welfare, 87(2), 11-20.  Retrieved from

[26] Hines, A.M., Lemon, K., Wyatt, P., Merdinger, J. (2004.) Factors related to the disproportionate involvement of children of color in the child welfare system: a review and emerging themes. Children and Youth Services Review,  26(2), 6, 507-527.  Retrieved from

[27] Cross, T.L. (2008). Disproportionality in child welfare. Child Welfare, 87(2), 11-20.  Retrieved from

[28] Weinberg, M. (2006).  Pregnant with Possibility: The Paradoxes of "Help" as Anti-Oppression and Discipline with a Young Single Mother.  Families in Society,  April-June, 87(2), 161-169.  Retrieved from

[29] Galaway, B. & Hudson, J.  (1996.) Restorative Justice: International Perspectives.  Criminal Justice Press/Willow Tree Press, Mondey, NY.  Abstract found at:

[30] Generation Five.  (2007, June).  Toward Transformative Justice.  Retrieved from

[31] Delfau, K., & Duff, N.  (2000).  Restorative Justice: Contextual and cultural considerations.  Retrieved from

[32] Consider Norway which currently uses restorative justice but which, compared to the United States is very small (it has 1/63 the population of the United States), wealthy (an estimated 4.3% of its population is living in poverty as compared to 15.1% of the population of the United States), and homogenous (approximately 95% of Norway’s population is white whereas 79.96% of the United States population is white; however, this includes white “Hispanics” since the US Census Bureau considers “Hispanic” to mean persons of Spanish/Hispanic/Latino origin of any race or ethnic group and 15.1% of the population is identified as “Hispanic”).

[33] Simon, L.  (2011).  Restorative/Transformative Justice Alternatives to Incarceration.  The Politics of Sexual Violence Reader, 107.

[34] It’s worth wondering whether event restorative justice if used broadly, particularly if it is adopted in concert with the punitive justice system as it currently is in some cases today, would be applied justly.  Consider the North Florida case of Conor McBride, described by the press as “a tall, sandy-haired 19-year-old” who shot and killed his girlfriend, Ann Margaret Grosmaire, “a tall 19-year-old with long blond hair.”   Ann Margaret’s parents, the Grosmaires, asked Jack Campbell, the assistant state attorney assigned to the case, for restorative justice be used to resolve the matter.  The Grosmaires’ request was not without risk to Campbell’s reputation.  Approving an alternative-justice process brought by a woman from California that might result in a murderer receiving a lighter sentence would likely make him appear soft on crime.  He reluctantly agreed to participate in the restorative justice process.  Although he had charged Conor with first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence or, potentially, the death penalty, after the restorative justice conference Campbell offered Conor a choice: a 20-year sentence plus 10 years of probation, or 25 years in prison.  (Conor took the 20 years, plus probation.)  Tullis, P.  (2013).  Can Forgiveness Play a Role in Criminal Justice? New York Times Magazine, page MM28.

It’s worth pondering whether Campbell would have agreed to an alternative-justice process and, if so, whether he would have ultimately offered anything less than Florida’s “mandatory” life sentence if Conor and Ann Margaret had been low-income, queer, people of color, or members of any other target group.

[35] Holtzman, B. and Meter, K.  (2012).  Furthering Transformative Justice, Building Healthy Communities: An interview with Philly Stands Up.  Retrieved from

[36] Simon, L.  (2011).  Restorative/Transformative Justice Alternatives to Incarceration.  The Politics of Sexual Violence Reader, 107.

[37] Generation Five.  (2007, June).  Toward Transformative Justice.  Retrieved from

[38] Id.

[39] Generation Five.  (2007, June).  Toward Transformative Justice.  Retrieved from

[40] Holtzman, B. and Meter, K.  (2012).  Furthering Transformative Justice, Building Healthy Communities: An interview with Philly Stands Up.  Retrieved from

[41] Holtzman, B. and Van Meter, K..  (2012) Furthering Transformative Justice, Building Healthy Communities: An interview with Philly Stands Up,