THE NATURE OF UNITIVE JUSTICE?
Lovingkindness is the moral principle upon which unitive justice is grounded.
The Arcs to Unitive Justice demonstrate the differences between punitive and unitive systems by comparing these twelve structural elements:
An Introduction to Unitive Justice
When we use the word "justice," what do we mean? Fairness . . . revenge . . . forgiveness . . . retribution? While these terms are all used to describe justice, they are inconsistent because there are two fundamentally different types of justice being described: punitive justice that seeks retribution versus unitive justice that embodies lovingkindness.
The punitive model of justice is based on the moral principle proportional revenge, as in "an eye for an eye." Unitive justice is based on the moral principle of lovingkindness--whatever the circumstances, harming another is not condoned as moral. The internal moral consistency of unitive justice constitutes a powerful foundation without which a system of justice is inherently flawed and inevitably inconsistent.
When a conflict is addressed using a process grounded on the principles of unitive justice, the conflict is the subject of the process and those who have been impacted by the harmful act come together to discover what they can do to restore the connection and harmony that has been breached. Unitive justice offers those impacted by the harmful act an opportunity to be the solution by restoring connection and addressing root causes.
Restorative Justice Can be Based on the Principles of Unitive Justice
Unitive justice falls within the large umbrella of restorative justice, but not all restorative justice programs are based on the principles of unitive justice. Both assume that conflict is an opportunity for healing and even transformation, but some "blended models" retain elements of the punitive system, while unitive justice does not.
This video is an example of a restorative justice process in a burglary case in England. It demonstrates how an alternative model of justice that seeks restoration, instead of retribution, can result in a more effective outcome. After Will (whom Peter had robbed) helped Peter turn his life around, Peter (the one who caused the harm) now devotes his life to helping other offenders turn their lives around--a far better outcome at a fraction of the cost!
Unitive justice calls us to rise to a level beyond the norm. Here, a generosity of
spirit may be extended that, in turn, diminishes any desire for retribution or
revenge. What may be experienced as a loss in a punitive process when it is
imposed (such as restitution or a required apology) may be willingly offered in
the spirit of generosity in a unitive justice process. A giving and receiving to and from one another tends to flow naturally, leading to a mutually beneficial outcome that restores balance.
As life lives through us, what we are being and doing is what we experience.
By building a unitive justice system and holding true to it, we achieve both a
different experience and a new outcome. It is a path to strong communities and lasting peace.
In the video below, Sylvia Clute explains more about unitive justice. The video was made by Bruce Baumann following a Unitive Justice workshop in Colorado.