Anne Marie McAlinden
This essay examines the use of restorative justice in sexual offending. Restorative forms of intervention have been used in cases of violent or sexual offending, from first-time and ‘acquaintance’ rape as well as young sexual abusers to high-risk sexual offenders in the form of circles of support and accountability. Such schemes are often presented as a counter to the failings of retributive forms of justice and are premised on Braithwaite’s notion of ‘reintegrative shaming’ that seeks to reintegrate offenders into the community. The essay sets out and seeks to counter arguments against using restorative justice for sex crimes. For the most part, restorative justice has not reached its potential as a full-fledged sentencing rationale and has not been used in more serious cases. The essay examines barriers to restorative justice in contemporary penal policy and highlights some of its controversial applications, including those related to clergy sexual abuse.
This essay considers sex offender legislation in a number of countries, including England and Wales, Germany, and the United States, and details sex offender sentencing provisions in various systems. It evaluates the policies behind these laws. The essay deals with some key contemporary questions in relation to high-risk sex offending. Are policies being driven by populist punitiveness and an agenda based on public protection and preventive detention? Or are more welfare-driven goals taken into account? Particular sentences such as mandatory life and other forms of indeterminate sentencing, such as civil commitment, are evaluated and their use and efficacy considered. Whether such policies are lawful and also ethically acceptable is also evaluated.