In this article, I examine the relevance and desirability of shame and guilt to restorative justice conferences. I argue that a careful study of the psychology of shame and guilt reveals that both emotions possess traits that can be desirable and traits that can be undesirable for restoration. More in particular, having presented the aims of restorative justice, the importance of face-to-face conferences in reaching these aims, the emotional dynamics that take place within such conferences, and the relevant parts of the empirical psychology of shame and guilt, I argue that restorative justice practitioners have to take account of a rather more complex picture than it had hitherto been thought. Restorative conferences are not simply about "shame management," though practitioners must certainly avoid shaming and humiliation. Given the nature of shame, guilt, and restorative conferences, it is not possible to provide a single concrete precept applicable to all restorative conferences. The successful holding of conferences depends in large part on the cultural and situational specificities at hand. The latter include among others knowledge of the perceived relations standing between victim and offender as well as the affective specificities of the individuals involved.
Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 2008, Vol 14, Issue 2, p. 142-176