As our society has become more litigious and punishments have become harsher, unitive models of justice are proving to be an important structure for enhancing institutional efficiency and avoiding excesses. These models include restorative justice, collaborative law, transformative mediation, transformational justice, and other new models being created for use in a growing number of situations.
For example, various restorative justice programs can relieve pressure on more formal legal institutions, such as our courts and on schools experiencing disruptive disciplinary problems. A restorative justice approach is beginning to be used in some social service agencies to more effectively address family conflicts. A collaborative workplace is being introduced in some businesses to create more harmonious workforces.
How the process is delivered, however, is not always consistent, resulting in a wide range of outcomes. In some unitive justice programs, for example, facilitators may use unitive forms, such as sitting in circle and passing a talking piece. This does not guarantee that the substance won't be coercive and punitive.
Or the traditional system of primarily focusing on the offender, often at the expense of the victim, may slip into the process. When this occurs, the victim may feel re-victimized and dishonored, the offender feels under attack, and the goal of healing is undermined.
A systems theory for reliably predicting success and avoiding failure is essential if unitive justice is to achieve its potential. I propose the following as a unitive justice systems theory. It is a means of predicting success, monitoring the process, and insuring positive outcomes.
First, we must identify what under girds the traditional punitive justice system and compare that to what constitutes the foundation of the unitive justice system. When these are compared, we find that unitive justice is built on the organizing principle of Oneness, while punitive justice is built on the disorganizing process of duality.
This theory predicts that the degree to which a unitive justice program comports with the organizing principle of Oneness will be a measure of its likelihood of success. In contrast, the degree to which a program comports with the disorganizing process of duality will be a measure of its likelihood of failure.
What are the characteristics of Oneness and duality? The organizing principle of Oneness is grounded in wholeness (consideration of the whole), shared interests, respect, generosity, trust and forgiveness. Oneness applies one moral standard to all which says that harming anyone is unacceptable, regardless of who is causing the harm.
The disorganizing process of duality is grounded in fragmentation and separation. It is an us-versus-them system where "winning" means that others must lose. Duality always includes a dual moral standard that says the harm the "good" people (i.e., us) do is moral, while the harm the "bad" people (i.e. not us) do is immoral, even when both are doing the same thing. Who we deem to be "us" varies, depending on which interests are being served.
Oneness, being all-encompassing, necessarily includes duality. Think of a large circle as Oneness and a small dot somewhere in that circle as representing duality. The relationship between Oneness and duality can be compared to the ocean and a wave. Under certain circumstances, a tidal wave of duality can be destroying a small part of life at the same time the ocean of Oneness is sustaining vast reaches of life, assuring it continues without ceasing.
We see evidence of the all-encompassing nature of Oneness in the fact that in every dualistic event, even those perceived as hurtful or chaotic, lie the seeds of transformation and rebirth. We see this time and again when unitive justice is successful. It is as though in every wrong there is a pearl to be harvested.
This comparison reveals why some programs are successful and others are not, enabling us to predict unitive justice success. This systems theory allows policy makers, practitioners and citizens to gauge in advance the soundness of proposed programs, policies and laws, and to avoid deception, waste and abuse.
For more information on Oneness versus duality, please see my book, Beyond Vengeance, Beyond Duality: A Call for a Compassionate Revolution.
Posted on GenuineJustice.com on 10-5-10.