Restorative Theatre: Using Performance To Support Alternative Approaches To Justice
Restorative Justice is a process that brings together victims and offenders of crime in dialogue to create consensus around what happened and how it can be made right. Based on the framework of restorative justice and the model for achieving it, two prison theatre programs (Carceral Shakespeare and the New Jersey Prison Theater Cooperative) achieve some aspects of restorative justice for both offenders and the community. I use two criteria to demonstrate this: (1) Does sharing their story through this play, performance, or arts program have a restorative effect for the offender or victim? (2) Does this play, performance, or arts program have a pedagogical or empowering effect for the audience?Both projects at least partially fulfill these criteria; Carceral Shakespeare satisfies both and a play by the Theater Cooperative partially satisfies the second. The projects take very different approaches and positive lessons can be gleamed from both. I conclude that, for a theatre project pursuing restorative justice to be successful, it must acknowledge systemic problems that lead to crime, provide opportunities for an offender to reflect on their crime, and present an audience with these elements as well as alternative approaches to justice.