Culture and Diversity Issues in Restorative Justice

This page is archived material and is no longer updated. It may contain outdated information and broken links. The material presented on these pages is the product of five regional symposia held on restorative justice between June 1997 and January 1998.

Perceptual Blocks

Perceptual blocks are obstacles that prevent the problem-solver from clearly perceiving either the problem itself or the information needed to solve the problem.

  1. Seeing what you expect to see: stereotyping
    • You cannot see clearly if you are controlled by preconceptions.
    • Cognitive dissonance: devalue information that does not fit one's stereotype.
  2. Paradigm-the way we see the world; a theory, an explanation, model, perception, or frame of reference
  • Paradigms affect very powerfully how we interact with other people. As clearly and objectively as we think we see things, we begin to realize that others see them differently form their own apparently equally clear and objective point of view.
  • "Where we stand depends on where we sit."
  • Paradigm shifts: need to make adjustments as we learn more about culturally, ethnically, or racially different people. This may be like a conversion from one belief system to another.
  1. Difficulty in Isolating the Problem
  • Inadequate clues or misleading information
  • Improper problem-identification and isolating the problem, e.g. quiet Indian children perceived as dumb, fearful, obstinate, etc. vs. being respectful, listening, observant, thoughtful
  1. Tendency to Delimit the Problem Area Too Closely
  • Placing/imposing too many constraints on possible solutions-tunnel vision, blinders
  1. Inability to See the Problem from Various Viewpoints
  • Need to see the problem form the other's point of view; need to view the solutions from the perspective of the client
  1. Saturation
  • Trickiest aspect of saturation is that you think you have the data, even though you are unable to produce it when needed
  • Need to teach ourselves to see things we are used to ignoring
  • Data arrives only occasionally or in the presence of large amounts of distracting data

Cultural Considerations

Inherent differences in world view, the role of family, social interaction within and outside of one's community environment, mandates awareness of culture as a factor in administering justice for culturally different people.

To limit the trauma of culturally different people involved in justice and correctional systems, it is critical for these systems to be sensitive to the type of environment the individual has been raised.

At least three levels on which culture plays a significant role include:

  1. agency or program professionals and paraprofessionals need to be culturally sensitive;
  2. the individual's level of cultural proficiency needs to be assessed; and
  3. interventions and programs need to promote both in order to adequately address the needs of the culturally different child, youth, or adult and determine the most appropriate course of action.

Cultural Sensitivity means that individuals working with culturally different people must be aware of the cultural differences versus stereotypes and view these differences as a source of options and additional resources, rather than as constraints, to effective intervention.

Cultural Sensitivity requires:

  • recruitment of culturally different professionals and paraprofessionals whenever possible,
  • language interpreters when needed
  • creative and assertive outreach to promote programs and include an array of options and support systems that may exist from within the family and the community

Cultural Proficiency refers to the level of knowledge and use of cultural ideals and practices within daily life for each individual child, youth, or adult.

Cultural Proficiency requires:

  • the specific cultural or ethnic group to take responsibility in making opportunities for learning about the culture available and accessible to their members.
  • The individual through his or her parents and family to take the responsibility for learning and acquiring the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to become proficient in one's culture.

Culturally different people are more sensitive to discrimination, and have had fewer positive experiences with being culturally different in a dominantly anglo or white world

  • Impedes knowledge of one's culture; may view being culturally different as detrimental; and inhibit integration of cultural values/strengths into their life.
  • Impairs their ability to effectively participate in both their ethnic community and mainstream society.

Interventions, programs, systems need to promote both in order to adequately address the needs of the culturally different child, youth, or adult and determine the most appropriate course of action.

  • Cultural ignorance inhibits communication, understanding, empathy, etc. which limits the service provider from developing the best plan for intervention. It inhibits the use of

Helping people, especially children, learn about and understand their culture develops a sense of pride, self esteem, and greatly enhances positive results with treatment or interventions and future behavior patterns.

Date Created: December 4, 2007