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Copyright (c) 2005 Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Ottawa Law Review

COMPTES RENDUS DE LECTURE BOOK REVIEW: Compulsory Compassion: A critique of Restorative Justice

by Annalise Acorn, Vancouver: UBC Press, 2004. Pp. 207.

2005 / 2006

37 Ottawa L. Rev. 357


Eyal Kimel



Compulsory Compassion: A Critique of Restorative Justice 1 is a well-written, comprehensive, convincing, and well-researched book. Seldom do I have the chance to read legal scholarship that is as fluent and readable as the best fiction out there. Not surprisingly than, the book takes us in a very organized, yet fascinating, manner through the author's concerns about the basics of restorative justice. The book engages with the most problematic aspect of the restorative justice movement; the impression that at times the process of restorative justice is compulsory if not forced and artificial. Acorn's main concern is that regret or remorse (on part of the culprit) and compassion (on part of the victim) cannot be cultivated. Acorn accuses restorative justice advocates of optimism and criticizes them for their "false understanding of utopia." 2 She systemically breaks down what she believes are the foundations of the thought behind restorative justice and identifies the logical flaws in it.

What the book is missing, I believe, is a solution. In essence, the book is a critical work but it does not provide any alternative to restorative justice and neither does it provide any solutions to the problems that the restorative justice movement is out to answer. Even if we choose to accept Acorn's criticism of restorative justice we have to acknowledge that flawed as they may be, restorative justice programs are extremely popular with both victims and criminals (convicted or accused) which mainly indicates that they are answering ...
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