European Perspectives on the Evaluation of Restorative Justice: Empathy, Offending and Attitudes, A Promising New Avenue for Research?

Published 11/06/2008
Type Article
Author(s) Professor Brian Williams
Corresponding Authors Professor Brian Williams, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

While references are frequently made in the restorative justice literature to the desirability of eliciting empathy towards their victims from offenders, little is known about whether it is, in fact, worthwhile to do so. Does empathy towards victims influence offenders’ future behaviour? Empathy itself is an ambiguous concept which has been defined in a variety of ways. The implications for the practice and evaluation of restorative justice are that considerably greater clarity is required; the use of common measures of empathy may also be helpful. A distinction needs to be made between perspective taking and empathy; it is suggested that there is a continuum between intellectualising about other’s feelings, responding compassionately to them and actively communicating with them. It is concluded that practitioner involvement in the design of future research on this topic should help to avoid further confusion.