Criminal Law Forum

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 251–276 | Cite as

New wine and old wineskins: Four challenges of restorative justice

  • Daniel W. Van Ness


Dissatisfaction with the current paradigm of criminal justice is leading to new programs with different visions. Some, such as restitution, can be incorporated into existing structures. Others, such as victim-offender reconciliation, point to a possible new approach to criminal justice—restorative justice. In some ways, restorative justice is simply a new application of an ancient vision. It is new wine from old vines. But those of us who celebrate the harvest are advised to remember the parable of new wine and old wineskins. Before we begin to pour—before we insert restorative features into familiar responses to crime—we would do well to reflect on what the consequences may be.

This article has considered four likely consequences: the challenge to abolish criminal law, the challenge to rank multiple goals, the challenge to determine harm rationally, and the challenge to structure community-government cooperation. Although each challenge is significant, I have argued that all can be effectively addressed. Indeed, they must be if criminal justice is to become—using Justice John Kelly's image—a means of healing the wounds of crime.


Criminal Justice International Economic Restorative Justice Multiple Goal Current Paradigm 
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Copyright information

© Prison Fellowship 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel W. Van Ness
    • 1
  1. 1.Washington, D.C.USA

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