Sustainable Justice and the Community: Volume 6

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(12 chapters)
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Dr. Liam Leonard is a Lecturer in Sociology, Criminology and Human Rights at the Institute of Technology, Sligo, Ireland. Dr. Leonard is the Series Editor for the Advances in Ecopolitics book series and author of a number of books on Environmental and Community Justice. He is the Founder and Editor of the Journal of Social Criminology at

While there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free. (Eugene V. Debs, 1918)

Writing in his seminal work Crime Control as Industry, Nils Christie (1993) outlines his vision of how western societies were facing increased unrest due to unequal wealth distribution and lack of access to properly paid work. After a sustained period of neo-liberalism and rationalisation throughout the western world, Christie's prediction of rising crime rates in relatively wealthy states has come to pass. However, the responses to this increase in crime have been varied from nation to nation. In Christie's case, the rise of the ‘crime control industry’ is a response that combines social control with a growth industry based on processing members of certain sections of society through a course of action that includes arrest, remand, trial and imprisonment at a time when the emphasis on rehabilitation appears to have diminished.

The following sections will present a brief overview of theories of justice that have underpinned the development of the institutions and administration of justice in modern Western societies. It will begin with an examination of the general political–philosophical ideas and concepts in the area of justice in the modern era. It will then examine the perspectives of punishment, which are linked to these philosophical theories.

The primary goal of the Restorative Justice process is not punishment but making good the harm done by offending for the victim, the community and the offender. Offenders have to take responsibility for their actions as a precondition to addressing the harm that they have caused. Offenders become aware that a crime is committed, not against an abstraction, but against someone real, a person like themselves and against their community, who are directly and indirectly affected by what has happened. Crime and conflict affect relationships between individuals who are left outside the court system altogether by conventional justice. Proceedings and arguments of the restorative process are voluntary for all parties. People are given the opportunity to partake in mediation, or to accept reparation. The process is always confidential however; outcomes and agreements can be made public, depending on the authorisation by participants.

This chapter will discuss understandings of forms of sustainable political economy within the context of sustainability in the community. Essentially, it will examine the issues which emerge when a community favours a green economic model within the context of the now largely discredited neo-liberal framework that never valued notions of sustainability, and is now largely in crisis due to the market decline and ‘credit crunch’. In addition, the section will outline the significance of community-based political economy for the development of sustainable forms of justice. A sustainable form of political economy incorporates particular concerns, such as ‘the geographical scope of production for local needs, and the exposing and combating the institutions and power structures that lead to poverty and lack of local control’ (Kennet & Heinemann, 2006, p. 78). Under the neo-liberal system, a dichotomy existed between community development and the dominant, yet ultimately unsustainable, growth-based form of political economy.

This book has examined the key social concepts of Sustainability, Justice and Community, in order to build better understandings of each concept. In addition, an outline of the manner in which a form of ‘Sustainable Justice’ could be constructed from existing initatives or theories has been presented. The main concepts examined, such as ‘restorative justice’, can address societal issues only within a wider context that incorporates justice as an issue which underpins all aspects of the major socio-economic, political and legal frameworks from which future societies emerge. To create a fully restored sense of justice in the community, the community itself must be restored, with all levels of injustice, inequality and corruption addressed in a non-exploitative manner.

Subject Index

Pages 153-160
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Cover of Sustainable Justice and the Community
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Advances in Ecopolitics
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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